China has had a food problem for quite a while.
A striking example was definitely the death of six infants and the hospitalization of thousands more due to kidney damage in 2008 caused by a chemical in their milk.
Now we are talking about spoiled meat in fast food and its consequences in a country whose trust in food has already reached what it seems to be its lowest point ever.
China’s attempts at solving this major health and safety problem has yet to succeed. Threats, regulations and laboratory tests have not had any significant direct effect on those.
However it is definitely playing out on a global stage when you look at how many foreign companies are also trying to tackle this problem head on.
Fox is no Ox!
This year it was fox meat that had been discovered in goods sold by Walmart passing it as donkey meat triggering a swift recall of all the concerned products and a pledge by the company to triple its budget for food and safety measures in China.
In late 2012 it was KFC to fall under the spotlight with high level of hormones and antibiotics discovered in chicken that led to a call to boycott the American brand products. The problem became worse with the death of nine people from avian flu that had raised public suspicion toward the brand. Chinese people highly desire safe food after all those deadly threats but desire alone will not make it.
The trigger of it all
The incident that focused the most attention in China was undoubtedly one involving three of the biggest American food brands. Using a hidden camera, a TV company based in Shanghai gave the public opinion a clue about the methods used in meat processing factories
The workers used out of date meat to make burgers and chicken meat based meals. It goes without saying that the sanitary conditions are far from meeting the standard requirements to say the least.
Later, government investigations revealed that no less than 5000 boxes of Chicken Mac Nuggets and others were made out of rotten food before being served in McDonald’s, KFC and other fast food giants in China. The brands of course immediately stopped selling the products and swiftly took care of the matter personally.
Marketing-wise, it was indeed a smart move. No brand wants to show passiveness and trigger what would be a PR nightmare afterwards. Even though China is not the only place to suffer from such a problem it has been labelled by most people as a food unsafe area and will remain the same until visible improvements are made.
The sum of those scandals and the fact that American companies have decided to open stores there explains why China has become the world focus of attention regarding food safety issues. Indeed, because of its strict food and safety regulation America is regarded as having the most vigorous food safety policy. This is something that China could definitely use.
Spoiled food creates a dire need for safe food from Chinese people that foreign companies can meet
So what will happen to China with all of those American companies having really high food safety standards? Will it drastically change the way things are? How long would it take?
These answers have yet to be found, forecasts are difficult to make. However this explains why there is such a craving for clean food.
From a marketing perspective there is an untapped potential for any marketers in the food sector. Foreign companies importing food from abroad will benefit from the image of clean and safe food present in the Chinese customers minds.
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