Videos of people eating absurd amounts of food may soon be illegal in China, according to draft legislation that’s expected to turn President Xi Jinping’s campaign against food waste into law.
The draft law proposes, among other measures, that media content producers who promote overeating be given hefty fines of up to 100,000 yuan ($15,300) and have their business operations suspended. The document was submitted Tuesday for review by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body, the state-run China News Service reported.
Binge-eating, or mukbang, videos were a popular form of online entertainment until Xi’s call to reduce food waste in August put the category in the authorities’ crosshairs. State media criticized such videos, an industry body announced a ban on them, and they mostly disappeared from Chinese sites. And in the wake of Xi’s comments, many local catering associations announced limits on how many dishes could be served during group meals.
The current draft law includes provisions requiring catering service providers to remind consumers to avoid food waste, and to actively dissuade them from ordering more dishes than they can possibly finish — a common way to show hospitality. Restaurants should offer different portion sizes and are allowed to charge consumers for having to dispose of their leftovers, the document says.
“The legislation may raise anti-food waste awareness,” He Pinghua, who teaches food economy at Huazhong Agricultural University, told Sixth Tone. The professor added, however, that “wasting food is still an ethical issue,” and as such it’s difficult to police from a legal standpoint. “For example, how should over-ordering be defined? This requires further clarification of standards and supporting laws,” He said.
The draft urges local government departments to publicize information about their anti-food waste campaigns every year, and further tightens regulations on banquets organized by government departments and state-owned enterprises.
In October, “anti-waste and cherish food” was also written into a revision of China’s law on the protection of minors, saying children should be taught not to waste food.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the COVID-19 pandemic led to labor shortages and disrupted food supply chains in many countries around the world. This year, Chinese farmers were hit by flooding and typhoons, and the timing of the anti-food waste campaign engendered doubts about the country’s food security. Through it all, officials have maintained that there is an ample supply of food.
Beyond lowering demand, the “Clean Plate Campaign” also helps reduce strain on China’s food waste treatment facilities, whose capacity has proved insufficient after many Chinese cities started enforcing waste-sorting policies.
Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: People Visual)