Many customers in England and Ireland were shocked last month when products labeled as beef hamburgers were found to be adulterated with horse meat. For Chinese food safety authorities though, this scandal offers some important lessons.
In China, most food safety problems break only after they affect the public. In this case though, the horse meat problem came to light through routine quality checks. While the horse meat in question doesn't pose a risk to public health, authorities still stepped in to test thousands of batches of beef. Meanwhile, large grocery retailers cut their ties with the suppliers who provided them mislabeled meat.
Again, even though the meat was safe for consumption, European Union (EU) officials introduced a plan to check for horse DNA in beef products. This was made possible by the EU's product traceability system. To date, China has yet to introduce such a system, making it difficult for authorities to trace products back down the supply chain.
The author is Xin Haiguang, an IT commentator.
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