Food waste regulation faces skeptical response

Updated: 2013-08-10 10:34

By Jin Haixing (China Daily)

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People are skeptical of rules to punish restaurants for wasting food as Zhuhai and Beijing released regulations this week.

The two cities followed Xining in Qinghai province and Linyi in Shandong province in their move to fight extravagance.

According to a regulation released on Wednesday by the authorities in Zhuhai, a city in Guangdong province, a restaurant will be fined 2,000 yuan ($326) to 10,000 yuan if leftovers are found on tables.

In Beijing, the punishment is stricter. A regulation released by Xicheng district government on Monday said the operation of restaurants will be suspended or they will be blacklisted by government departments if serious food waste is found through inspection or consumer complaints.

Restaurants are required to display posters to inform consumers not to waste food and guide them to order dishes reasonably, according to the rule.

Authorities are still working to discuss details of the regulation, said Ma Chen, head of the publicity department of Xicheng district government, on Thursday.

He confirmed to China Daily that similar regulations on customers and public servants will also be released soon, but he did not give a clear schedule.

However, many restaurants in Xicheng interviewed by China Daily claimed they have not been informed of the regulation.

A manager surnamed Zhao, of Laojia Weidao restaurant in Xicheng, said they have put up posters given them by the community committee to inform customers.

"Most customers cooperated well and they often order an appropriate amount of food and take away the leftovers," she said.

Some customers believe it is the diners' responsibility not to waste food, not the restaurants.

"It is necessary to appeal to citizens not to waste food. But it is not that practical to lay down a regulation. There is no reason to fine the restaurant. It is the consumer who is responsible for the wasted food," said Tian Tian, 27, a saleswoman at a real estate company in Beijing.

Guo Dian, 34, a male employee at a State-owned company, said: "When I am eating in a restaurant, I seldom pay attention to the posters. I do not finish the dishes only because I dislike the taste. Besides, there is no proper method to supervise the implementation of such regulation."

Legal experts said the government should guide restaurants to educate customers rather than create such regulations.

Yue Shenshan, a lawyer with Beijing Yuecheng Law Firm, said restaurants could provide discounts to customers to gain their cooperation in the campaign to fight extravagance, which was also mentioned in Xicheng's regulation.

Food waste regulation faces skeptical response

Li Weimin, director of the Beijing Weibo Law Firm, said the regulation was unnecessary because current laws could resolve the problem.

The restaurant will be punished if it does not inform consumers enough about the price and amount of food, causing food waste, according to current laws of consumer rights protection, said Li.

It's better to have such punishments implemented by an industry association or consumer's association, said Li, who is also the secretary-general of the consumer rights protection committee of the Beijing Lawyers Association.

A regulation allowing the government to fine restaurants is unlikely to be implemented because there is no clear definition of food waste and there will be disputes if there is heavy punishment from the government, he said.

Yan Ran contributed to this story.