Chinese lawmakers have enacted legislation that will allow authorities to crack down on various kinds of food waste, including videos of binge eating, in an effort to conserve resources and promote responsible consumption.
Ratified by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) on Thursday, the new law prohibits vloggers and social media influencers from creating content in which they eat, or pretend to eat, excessive amounts of food. Anyone who makes such videos now risks a fine up of up to 100,000 yuan ($15,451).
Some Chinese content creators reportedly make hundreds of dollars in donations by hosting livestreams, known as a ‘mukbang’ shows, in which they binge on enormous amounts of food or alcohol. Earlier this month, China’s corruption watchdog called on video-sharing platforms to crack down on the ‘shows’, saying they encouraged food waste.
Additionally, the law will allow restaurants to issue fees to diners if they leave large amounts of food uneaten. The legislation also protects consumers from deceptive marketing that leads to food waste. Vendors can be fined if authorities determine that their advertising encourages customers to order more food than they really need. Food providers that are found to be wasteful face a maximum fine of 50,000 yuan ($7,731).
The legislation also extends to office and school cafeterias, as well as food delivery apps, setting out guidelines for reducing waste. Supermarkets will be required to bulk-sell produce nearing its expiration date.
Chinese media said that the law was designed to “guide society to foster rational and healthy catering consumption habits,” while stressing that it did not suggest the country was facing a potential food shortage. Instead, the bill aims to ensure “food security” and stabilize supply chains as China’s population increases. Food waste is also discouraged due to the possibility of sanctions or other external circumstances.
Academics have estimated that restaurants in China’s urban areas waste as much as 18 million tons of food each year, enough to feed between 30-50 million people.
The newly adopted legislation has been described as the successor of the nationwide ‘Clean Your Plate’ campaign, which placed posters in restaurants urging people not to waste food.
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