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中国还有安全的食品吗?

2014-08-04    来源:fortune    【      美国外教 在线口语培训
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食品安全的核心在于监督。而在当今中国,每一个监督环节都存在缺失。

American fast food, once a refuge amid China’s food scandals, is joining the ranks of the disgraced.

Early this week, McDonald’s locations across Beijing, Shanghai and the country were only offering fish burgers after the Chinese subsidiary of OSI, the McDonald’s and KFC-parent Yum! Brands supplier based in Illinois, said it would recall all meat products made at its Shanghai subsidiary.

The situation has been snowballing since last week, when a local Chinese TV report showed employees using rotten or expired products for ground meat. Authorities shut down the plant and Shanghai police detained five employees.

This is the second scandal in as many years to hit KFC in China, and insiders are seriously asking whether its reputation has been irreparably hurt. McDonald’s, meanwhile, was a standard bearer for food safety in China and its meat supplier OSI was considered one of the world’s best.

“As a global supplier of protein, [OSI] claimed to have higher standards,” said Richard Brubaker, founder of consultancy Collective Responsibility and an adjunct professor of sustainability at the China-Europe International Business School in Shanghai. “They weren’t proven to be any better.”

The blame for the latest food scandal in China lies squarely on McDonald’s and the rest of the American brands. When suppliers like OSI’s Shanghai subsidiary skirt the rules, American companies are supposed to catch the problem and fix it because they know China’s regulators can’t keep up.

China’s food system is highly fragmented—there are a couple hundred million small farms in the country and livestock is almost as scattered. Chinese regulations are improving but officials still can’t schedule enough inspections. “In China they are certainly outmanned,” says Brubaker, who’s been on inspection tours when officials have looked exhausted and exasperated. “If you know the government is not up to par, it’s on you,” he says.

McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut and other American brands sourcing from the OSI plant held themselves to higher standards in China. Now what? For one, the belief that American fast food is much safer has vanished. Apologies are only a necessary starting point. They won’t, by themselves, restore customers’ trust.

OSI President and chief operating officer David McDonald acknowledged as much on Monday by promising a thorough internal investigation and by parachuting a whole new team of managers for China.

The news follows a long trend of food scares in China. A tainted milk scandal in 2008 caused six infant deaths; KFC was found in 2012 to have used heavy doses of antibiotics on chickens it sold in the country; 15,000 dead pigs were found drifting in the a river in early 2013, part of an illegal pork trade.

But China’s systemic food safety failures aren’t without precedent: if you go back a century, Britain and the U.S. overcame the same abysmal food records.

Britain’s rapid urbanization in the 1800s meant getting food into cities took precedent over questions of whether the stuff was fit for consumption. Britain also went through its own milk scandal linked to infant deaths in the early 1900s. At the same time, U.S. writer Upton Sinclair shed light on the grim practices in Chicago’s meatpacking district supporting the country’s skyrocketing meat consumption and meat exports—reports that led to Europe occasionally banning U.S. meat and enacting burdensome inspection standards.

The latest scandal in China in many ways closely follows previous scandals there, maybe most closely with the “pork powder” incident in 2011. Then, Chinese journalists exposed the routine addition of previously banned additives clenbuterol and ractopamine by China’s largest pork producer. It was a case of local managers acting in their own self-interest instead of the interests of their customers. Managers from the local subsidiary, inspectors, farmers and traders were all in on the scandal even through the company’s bosses had banned the additives.

At its core, food safety is about verification. Food companies must verify their suppliers aren’t cutting corners; restaurants must verify the food companies are upstanding; and government regulators must verify that every step is followed.

In China today, each stage of verification is lacking. Large food processors find it difficult to verify that hogs and chickens from small farms across China are raised according to standards; restaurants like McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks, and others aren’t doing enough to inspect those processors; and China’s food officials are so lacking in numbers that the government can’t itself verify the steps.

“If food safety were simply an engineering problem, the scientific discoveries and techniques developed over the past two centuries would shield consumers of China’s food from the hazards experienced by earlier generations,” wrote H. Frederick Gale and Dinghuan Hu of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Wageningen University Office in China, in an academic paper.

But food safety is about more than advanced science, say the researchers. “While China has access to advanced laboratory and sanitation equipment, organizational improvements that played an often-overlooked role in achieving food safety have been difficult to implement in China.”

You could chalk it all up to China’s learning curve and conclude these are painful incidents the country has to experience after only opening its economy to the world 35 years ago. Except that what goes on in China affects the world: China is the world’s largest exporter of seafood; more than 70% of apple juice imported by the U.S. comes from China; the country ranks in the world top 10 of vegetable and fruit exports. In other words, what happens in the Chinese food industry is a direct concern for consumers around the world.

Meanwhile, the U.S. restaurants in China face uncertain prospects.

At a KFC in the southern city of Guangzhou this week, workers said the biggest problems had passed. They may have been right. A team leader on duty said business trailed off for a few days following the Shanghai TV report before returning to nearly normal. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “The staff is eating the food.”

But she couldn’t know whether the same masses of customers would again too.


美国快餐曾经是中国食品丑闻中的一片净土,如今也成了不光彩的对象。

从本周早些时候开始,北京、上海和中国其他地区的麦当劳餐厅(McDonald’s)只提供鱼肉汉堡。之前,麦当劳和肯德基(KFC)母公司百胜餐饮集团(Yum! Brands)的供应商——总部位于伊利诺伊州的福喜集团(OSI)宣布,将召回由上海福喜生产的所有肉类产品。

上周,中国一家地方电视台报道,上海福喜的员工使用腐烂或过期的产品制作碎肉,之后,情况愈演愈烈。相关部门关闭了工厂,福喜五名员工被上海警方拘留。

这是肯德基多年以来在中国遭遇的第二起丑闻,有内部人士担心其声誉是否会受到不可挽回的伤害。而麦当劳一直是中国食品安全方面的楷模,其供应商福喜集团也曾被认为是全球最好的肉类供应商。

咨询公司Collective Responsibility创始人、上海中欧国际商学院(China-Europe International Business School)可持续发展兼职教授理查德•布鲁贝克表示:“作为一家跨国肉类供应商,[福喜集团]曾宣称其遵守更高的标准。结果,他们没有证明比其他公司做得更好。”

对于中国近期爆发的食品丑闻,批评的矛头都指向了麦当劳和其他美国品牌。当福喜集团上海分公司逃避法规监管时,美国公司应该发现并解决问题,因为他们知道,中国监管部门并不能了解实情。

中国的食品系统高度分散——全国有数亿家小型农场,家畜养殖也非常分散。虽然中国相关方面的立法在不断完善,但政府部门仍无法安排足够的检测。布鲁贝克表示:“中国这方面的政府工作人员远远不足。”布鲁贝克曾参加过政府部门的巡回检查,工作人员看起来疲惫不堪,非常恼火。他说:“如果你知道政府达不到预期标准,便只能靠自己。”

麦当劳、肯德基、必胜客(Pizza Hut)和其他从福喜工厂采购食物的美国品牌,一直在中国宣称执行更高的标准。现在如何?首先,中国人对美国快餐食品更安全的信任已经消失。道歉只不过是一个起点。这些品牌靠自己不可能重新赢得消费者的信任。

福喜集团总裁兼首席执行官戴维•麦克唐纳也承认这一点,他在周一承诺进行全面的内部调查,并且要空降一支全新的管理团队接手中国分公司。

在此之前,中国已经发生了一系列食品恐慌。2008年的毒奶粉事件造成六名婴儿死亡;2012年,肯德基被曝出在全国出售的鸡肉抗生素超标;2013年初,黄浦江上出现15,000头漂浮死猪,据称与非法猪肉交易有关。

不过,类似中国这样系统性的食品安全问题并非没有先例:早在一个世纪以前,英国和美国也曾遭遇过同样糟糕的食品安全问题。

十九世纪,英国的快速城市化,意味着食物能否进入城市,比是否适合消费更加重要。此外,二十世纪初,英国也经历过造成婴儿死亡的牛奶丑闻。与此同时,美国作家厄普顿•辛克莱揭露了芝加哥肉类加工业令人毛骨悚然的做法。当时,芝加哥的肉类加工业支撑着美国急速上涨的肉类消耗和出口。辛克莱的报告导致欧洲不定期禁止进口美国肉类,并且制定了繁琐的检验标准。

中国最近曝出的食品丑闻,在很多方面与之前的丑闻密切相关,其中,联系最密切的可能要属2011年的“瘦肉精”事件。当时媒体曝光了中国最大的猪肉生产商大量原料添加了之前被禁用的添加剂克伦特罗和雷托巴胺。在此事件中,地方管理者只考虑自身利益,而罔顾消费者的利益。虽然公司高层禁止使用上述添加剂,但地方分公司的管理人员、检验人员、农民和中间商依旧我行我素,最终酿成了丑闻。

食品安全的核心在于监督。食品公司必须检查供应商是否有投机取巧的行为;餐厅必须监督食品公司是否正直守法;政府监管部门必须监督企业是否遵守了每一个步骤。

在当今中国,每一个监督环节都存在缺失。大型食品加工商发现很难确认全国各地小农场供应的猪和鸡是否按照标准饲养;麦当劳、肯德基、星巴克(Starbucks)和其他餐厅则没有对食品加工商进行充分的监督;而中国食品监督官员人手不足,仅靠政府力量很难对所有步骤进行监督。

来自美国农业部(U.S. Department of Agriculture)和荷兰瓦赫宁根大学中国代表处(Wageningen University Office in China)的H•弗雷德里克•盖尔与胡定寰在一份学术论文中写道:“如果食品安全只是一个简单的工程问题,那么,过去两个世纪的科学发现和技术,足以保护中国食品消费者避免前人经历过的危险。”

但两位研究者认为,食品安全不仅与先进科技有关。“虽然中国拥有先进的实验室和卫生设备,但中国很难对组织结构进行完善。在实现食品安全的过程中,完善组织结构所带来的作用,往往会被忽视。”

你可以将问题归咎于中国的学习曲线,认为这是在35年前经济对外开放之后,中国必须要经历的痛。但中国出现的问题也在影响着整个世界:中国是世界最大的海产品出口国;美国进口的苹果汁,超过70%来自中国;中国是世界十大蔬菜水果出口国之一。换言之,中国食品行业发生的问题,将直接引起全球消费者的担忧。

同时,美国餐厅在中国面临着不确定的前景。

本周,广州市一家肯德基的工作人员表示,最大的问题已经解决。或许他说的不错。一位值班经理表示,上海电视台曝光之后的几天,业务量大幅减少,但现在已经恢复到接近正常水平。她说:“别担心。我们的工作人员也在吃这些食品。”

但大众消费者是否会重拾信心,她可能无从得知。(财富中文网)



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