It’s easy to become jaded about China’s approach to food safety. The fake meat scandals just don’t stop coming. There was that story about 22 tons of pork masquerading as beef in September 2013.
A month later, we heard about the black market for gutter oil (reclaimed, used cooking oil pilfered from trash bins, sewers—anywhere scammers could find it, basically).
Some Chinese tech companies are trying to make agriculture more transparent, but a problem this big requires an equally expansive set of solutions.
After the fox-flesh-masquerading-as-donkey-meat incident in January, Walmart decided it was time to take action. At the time, the company vowed to spend at least $16 million on enhanced food safety in China between 2013 and 2015.
Now, the multinational chain has tripled the committed amount to $48.2 million. The Washington Post reports that the funds will be spent on food testing and supplier audits. Walmart China Chief Compliance Officer Paul Gallemore specifically stated that Walmart will be doubling its DNA testing on meat products sold in its stores.
Gallemore added, “We see this as our future home market,” because Walmart has announced plans to add 116 new stores to the 400 already present in China by 2016.
Wal-Mart uses “special approvals” in China with suppliers it already does business with, it said Jan. 24 in response to the CCTV report. Such approvals are only used in exceptional cases and require three levels of management approval on an item-by-item, supplier-by-supplier basis, the company said.
Further on in that report, CCTV revealed that some suppliers with which the company had been doing business previously had bypassed those checks altogether.
NASDAQ reports that just about 4% of Walmart’s 7,000 suppliers in China have failed testing and audits in the past few years, which led the company to cut them.
Chinese citizens are more concerned than anyone about the state of food safety—after all, they’re the ones left questioning whether that’s really donkey or not.
NASDAQ reports that a Pew Research poll in 2013 showed that 38% of the 3,200 Chinese citizens polled feel that food safety in their country is “a very big problem.”
Walmart’s moves make a lot of business sense—but in this case, those moves may also work out well for consumers. Here’s hoping that’s what happens.
[via the Washington Post]