The results of Gallup’s 2010 global wellbeing survey were recently issued. It was surprising to see that only 12% of Chinese considered themselves to be “thriving”, with 17% surveyed said they were “downright suffering” and an overwhelming 71% majority thought they were “struggling” in the society. By contrast, even stuck in one of the worst financial crisis, 59% of people surveyed by Gallup in the US still considered themselves to be “thriving” and only 38% of Americans said they were “struggling”.
Despite China’s booming economy, rising global status and increasing living standard with brand-new infrastructure, why do Chinese people still feel that bad? According to my analysis, the unhappiness of Chinese mainly roots from four aspects: the out-of-control housing prices, high education cost, rising food prices, and national insecurity toward food safety. Here I would like to focus on food safety. This week, Mengniu-one of the biggest dairy products manufacturers in China-was slumped again into a food poisoning scandal, three years after melamine was discovered in its milk powder products.
On the morning of April 22, 277 students from a local elementary school in Yulin, Shaanxi were food poisoned when they drank Mengniu’s pure milk produced by a plant in a neighboring city. The students were hospitalized immediately and diagnosed with bacterial food poisoning. The milk was distributed by Yulin’s Education Bureau as part of China’s school milk project, a national drive that was supposed to enhance students’ wellbeing.
Take a look at Mengniu’s website. There were two press releases related to the accident on its front page. Though the company addressed the concern of the public by saying that it sent a dozen of staff to cooperate with local government and hospitals, it did not specify what the possible causes of the food poisoning were or what substantial procedures it took to handle with the issue. All it said was that it would follow up the health conditions of the students and brief the media and the public on the latest progress. It was not the first time for Mengniu to face public interrogation about food safety. What drove it to risk people’s health while gaining profits?
Last month illegal food additive lean meat powder used in pig’s feedstuff was exposed by China’s national media. How could Chinese identify themselves as thriving when food scandal was literally being exposed on a monthly basis? The only thing we could comfort ourselves is probably to contribute such high frequency exposure to the increasing transparency in public health communication.