China Fights Food Waste with New Fines for Binge Eating

According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, restaurants in the country’s major cities waste 18 million tonnes of food a year, enough to feed up to 50 million people in the same time frame. The Chinese government has passed a wide-ranging law aimed at reducing food wastage. Parts of the food waste law are a ban on eating competitions and big fines of up to ¥100,000 ($15,400) for making “binge-eating” videos where vloggers “usually leave a lot of food uneaten and often vomit what they have consumed,” says the state-owned Global Times.

The social media phenomenon of livestream eating originated in South Korea where it is called mukbang, meaning ‘eating broadcast.’ The Chinese term for the genre, chībō, means the same thing. Chībō has become wildly popular and controversial throughout China in recent years.

The food waste law also introduces a fee which restaurants can charge to their guests if they leave “excessive” amounts of uneaten food at the end of their meals. At the same time, restaurants that “induce or mislead consumers into making excessive orders” can now be fined up to ¥10,000 ($1,540). Restaurants that consistently waste “large amounts” of food face fines of up to ¥50,000 ($7,720).

So far, solutions specifically aimed at food waste reduction were notably absent from China’s top agrifoodtech funding deals last year – perhaps indicating a major area of white space for entrepreneurs and prospective investors to keep an eye on going forward.

It will be very interesting to see what the effects of the legislation will be. Will consumers and restaurants actually change their behavior?

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