China: Food Scares Fuelling Organic Food Demand
Rat meat masquerading as lamb, cabbage doused in formaldehyde, rice
containing arsenic and rotten-meat burgers, all cooked in recycled oil
collected from a sewer. This is not a menu from a dystopian nightmare,
but a small sample of the food safety scandals that have besieged
Chinese consumers in recent years.
No type of food has been spared and the scandals have led to enormous
mistrust among consumers. "Food safety is definitely among the top
concerns of Chinese people," says Wang Jing, a food and agriculture
campaigner with Greenpeace China. "It's literally everywhere around
In a survey last year, 80% of respondents said they were upset about the
food safety situation in China. The poll of 3,166 people across 20
cities was conducted in the aftermath of a food scandal involving
out-of-date meat supplied to top fast-food outlets.
Concerns relate to all stages of food production, from processing back
to the growing of vegetables and breeding of livestock. One of the most
shocking and high profile cases was in 2008, when melamine-tainted milk
powder led to the deaths of six infants and hundreds more being admitted
to hospital. While standards have improved and efforts have been made to
reassure the public, the mistrust of Chinese-produced milk powder
remains, leading to high demand for imported milk products.
Added to these scandals is China's alarmingly high level of pollution, a
result of its rapid coal-driven economic growth. Thick swathes of grey
smog regularly engulf many cities, while rivers and soil are poisoned by
heavy metals from industry and mining. According to government figures,
up to 40% of rivers and 20% of farmland is polluted. Urbanisation has
happened at a rate never seen before as people flock from the
countryside to China's burgeoning cities. These new city dwellers
increasingly find themselves disconnected from the source of their food,
and with so many scandals it is often difficult for them to ensure their
food is safe.
Emily Xu, a young mother who runs a children's reading and writing
studio in Shanghai, says food safety is a big concern for her and many
of her friends, particularly since their children were born. "The more
you learn about [food safety scandals] the more upset you will be.
Sometimes you just feel helpless because you can't change the air or you
can't change the soil, you can't change the way farmers do the farming.
And it seems the government can't do anything to help. More and more, I
have friends who choose to emigrate." Many urban residents seek out
alternative food sources. Organic food and imported products have risen
in popularity and are considered a safer option than the traditional
"wet" markets where fresh vegetables, meat and fish are sold. In cities
such as Beijing and Shanghai, the number of specialist and boutique food
shops selling organic food is growing, especially among the Chinese
middle class and expatriate community who have disposable income and are
willing to pay a premium for good-quality, safe food.
One such outlet is Green and Safe, a Taiwanese-owned shop in Shanghai's
up-market former French Concession area. Much of the fresh produce comes
from the company's own farm a few hours from Shanghai. The store also
sells imported organic goods, meat and fish, bread from its own bakery
and has a restaurant and cafe.
Mrs Li is a regular customer and is carefully picking through the
baskets of vegetables, looking for the best ones to make food for her
son. "The vegetables here are in decent shape," she says approvingly.
They cost considerably more than those sold at the local markets, but
Mrs Li said she is prepared to pay extra. "I know that this market has
their own farm and the water they use is much cleaner than others'."
Many city residents are buying directly from farmers they trust who grow
vegetables without pesticides. Community-supported farms have become
increasingly popular, says Wang, along with farmers' markets. A small
group of consumers has also begun to grow food themselves, sometimes
renting land on the outskirts of the cities.
However, all of these options are relatively expensive and not open to
most average-income families. Those who can't afford the premium price
of organic or imported food "basically have not much choice", says Wang.
She believes access to safe food should not be dependent on income.
"Everyone has the right to safe food, it's a joint responsibility of
companies, the government and consumers ourselves to make this happen by
altering chemical-intensive agriculture to a more ecological and
sustainable way of growing food."
Consumer demand for organic foods is burgeoning in China because of
fears for food safety. Since many organic foods are imported, they have
very high prices making them unaffordable to most Chinese consumers.
Although China produces many organic crops, there is a confidence issue;
many Chinese consumers do not trust locally grown agricultural products.
A major challenge for the Chinese organic food industry is how to
strengthen consumer trust in domestically grown products.
Regular updates on the global organic products market are given at the Sustainable Foods Summit.
The European edition will be hosted in Amsterdam
on 4-5 June. More details are on the
The Guardian / OM
India: Azafran Launches New Organic Skincare Range
Azafran Innovacions has launched a new range of organic skincare
products. The Ahmedabad-based The company has injected nearly INR 200m (USD
3.2m) to establish a comprehensive integrated value chain from 'farm to
The company has set up a dedicated 40 hectare organic farm, which
includes farming, greenhouses, manufacturing facility and dedicated R&D
Azafran Innovacions director & founder Aditi Vyas comments: "We have
also appointed 40 farmers undertaking organic farming to supply the raw
material to us. Currently we are utilising the farm to its full
The company manufactures organic personal care products for hair, face
and body applications. It has 25 products, which is expected to increase
to 40 this year.
Source: The Hindu Business Line
Organic Labelling Scheme
The Malaysian Organic Scheme (SOM) certificate which was launched in
2003 has been re-branded as MyOrganic to promote consumer acceptance
towards organic products.
Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri
Yaakob said the move was aimed at placing organic products under one
brand, comprising crops, livestock and aquaculture sub-sector.
"SOM which was introduced by the Agriculture Department only focused on
organic agriculture products compared to MyOrganic which is more
comprehensive since it includes livestock and fisheries sectors through
"With the involvement of the Veterinary and Fisheries Departments in
MyOrganic, we are confident that it will meet the growing demand for
organic products," he told reporters after launching the rebranding
programme at his ministry.
He said even though the organic certificate for livestock and
aquaculture sectors was issued by their respective departments,
MyOrganic also emphasised on a similar aspect, namely chemical free,
preserving the environment and giving priority to safety of workers
before the sector can be rated as organic.
Ismail Sabri said up till now, the Agriculture Department had certified
136 farms under SOM but the organic products supplied from such farms
across the country was still inadequate compared to market demand. He
said of the total, 33 were fruit farms, 44 vegetables, three planted
paddy and the remaining are involved in other agricultural products
including mushroom and herbs.
The high level of awareness among consumers regarding the advantages of
such organic products, the special attention given by large supermarkets
to provide special sections to sell organic products are among reasons
for the improvement of such products, he said.
Asked when the production of organic products involving livestock and
aquaculture sectors would be initiated, Ismail Sabri said it had just
started but the company has yet to be granted organic status
Malaysia General News