China Launches ‘Clean Plate’ Campaign against Food Waste

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News Desk

The “Clean Plate Campaign” comes after Chinese President Mr Xi Jinping highlighted that Covid19 had “sounded the alarm” on food waste. He added that China had to “maintain a sense of crisis about food security”. The country has faced several food crises over the past year. The food crisis made worse after record flooding across southern China, which left farms wrecked and ruined tones of produce.

N-1 System

Following Mr Xi’s message, the Wuhan Catering Industry Association urged restaurants in the city to limit the number of dishes served to diners – implementing a system where groups must order one dish less than the number of diners. So under this system dubbed “N-1”, a group of 10 people can only order 9 dishes.

But it’s likely the system will take time to get adjusting to, in a country where it is seen as polite to order more than the amount needed. The “N-1” idea faced some criticism online, with some pointing out that it was “too rigid”.


Chinese state agency CCTV also called out live streamers who typically film themselves eating large amounts of food, known commonly as “Mukbang” – such livestreams are popular in many parts of Asia including China. It is to be mentioned that A mukbang, also known as eating show, is an online audiovisual broadcast in which a host consumes large quantities of food while interacting with the audience. It became popular in South Korea in 2010, and since then it has become a worldwide trend. Varieties of foods, ranging from pizza to noodles, are consumed in front of a camera.

Mukbang is usually prerecorded or streamed live through a webcast on streaming platforms such as Afreeca TV, YouTube, and Twitch. Based on the attractiveness of real-time and interactive aspects, eating shows are expanding their influence in internet broadcasting platforms and serve as a virtual community and a venue for active communication among active internet users.

According to CCTV, some of these live streamers throw up afterwards as they are unable to digest the large amounts of food eaten.

In response, leading video platforms such as Douyin, the China version of TikTok have pledged to strengthen content reviews and remove videos and block accounts that promote extravagance and waste. In July 2019, the city of Shanghai, the largest and most populous in the world – introduced strict regulations forcing individuals and companies to correctly recycle their food waste. Citizens faced fines as punishment for not complying, or penalties to their social credit rating, a controversial system affecting economic and social prospects.

In 2013, the “Operation Empty Plate” campaign was launched though that targeted extravagant feasts and reception held by officials, rather than putting the onus on the public.

In the recent months, a massive flood is being observed in China that left farms wrecked and ruined tons of food grains. Moreover, Covid-19 and US China Relations are costing tensed.

At the same time, China is also facing a growing obesity problem. In 2016, the country overtook the US to have the greatest number of obese people in the world. One of many negative impacts of the now-abolished one child policy longer studying and working hours, as well as bad eating habits, have fueled weight gains. Beside those mentioned above, China’s Labour market has shrunk.

According to WWF China, around 17 to 18 million tons of food went to waste in China in 2015. The amount of food China wastes is enough to feed 30 to 50 million people annually. President Xi is portraying the “clean waste campaign” as a move to help the international community during the pandemic, but in reality China has for years had ambitions to cut the waste generated by its 1.4bn citizens.

The reality on ground is different. Normally, there is not much food waste in the hotels, instead to extravagant banquets thrown by officials.Customers going into the popular Hunan chain Chuiyan Fried Beef, in the city of Changsha, were asked to weigh themselves on a set of scales and provide personal information. The restaurant would then suggest menu items based on their physique.

The customers order different dishes based on the person’s weight and the calorie content of the food. For example, women weighing less than 40 kilograms (88 pounds) were recommended the chain’s signature beef dish and a fish head, while men weighing more than 80 kilograms (175 pounds) were recommended dishes including beef. The move invited angry reactions among customers who accused the restaurant of ‘fat-shaming’.

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