Wu Heng on Throwing China’s Food Out the Window

Wu_Heng

“I hope this book will make you feel that it’s time to throw unsafe food out the window.”

So writes Wu Heng, the founder of Throw it Out the Window (www.zccw.info), a website staffed by volunteers that documents China’s rampant food safety problem and tallies incidents of unsafe food — 3,449 since 2004. In July, Mr. Wu, 28, a former history student and now a journalist who lives in Shanghai, published a book by the same title aiming to raise awareness of a problem he says is fueled by greed, ignorance and corruption, and to support consumer rights.

Q. When did you start to be concerned? What awakened your concern?

A. I began to worry about this in April 2011. I saw a report about fake beef. It described how a small retailer used beef fat to mask his pork and make it appear like beef, because beef was more expensive than pork. As a student I’d eaten a lot of “beef” like that. I had become a victim. I decided to do something to help other people.

Q. Ultimately, what will it take to solve the problem?

A. People need to wake up. Too many people think that one person alone is too weak, that one person doing something won’t lead anywhere. But I think this is something that affects every single person and needs every single person to take part. For example, when you get an unsafe food, if the company making it doesn’t have the attitude that it will improve, then you need to boycott the company.

Q. In your book you quote a slightly altered version of “No Man Is an Island,” the poem by the 17th-century English poet John Donne. The poem contains the lines:

No man is an island, Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main. …
Each man’s death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.

Q. Why this poem?

A. This touches on a very interesting issue in food safety. In China, a lot of people producing and making unsafe foods don’t eat what they produce. Farmers, mantou (steamed bun) sellers and so on. Because they know the food is problematical. They know the production process.

I want to use my website and my book to tell them, that’s not right. Because if you produce bad food and sell it, well, there is someone else who is doing the same to you.

produce bad food and sell it, well, there is someone else who is doing the same to you. What happens then is that everyone thinks they’re safe, but in reality no one is safe. And the poem illustrates this.

Q. You studied history, and you’ve said the title of your website and book was drawn from a story in American history. Is that right?

A. Yes. There’s a story that President Theodore Roosevelt threw a sausage he was about to eat out the window after reading a book about unsafe foods in America at that time.

[The book was “The Jungle,” the 1906 novel by Upton Sinclair, which detailed the exploitation of workers in the United States, but is chiefly known for its depictions of  unsanitary practices in the meatpacking industry.]

taken from http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/  written by Didi Kirsten Tatlow August 17, 2014

Source:         http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/17/q-and-a-wu-heng-on-throwing-chinas-food-out-the-window/

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