Food safety website fuels student's fame
Updated: 2012-05-08 14:07
SHANGHAI - Driven by a sense of social responsibility, Wu Heng created a website to track China's food safety problems, a move that has propelled him to Internet stardom as people from across the country have found their way to the site.
Wu, 26, is a graduate student majoring in history at Shanghai's Fudan University. In June 2011, Wu and 34 volunteers launched Zhichuchuangwai (www.zccw.info), which translates to "throw it out the window."
The website, which has recorded over 190,000 hits since being launched, has a database containing about 3,000 news articles on food safety and a map pinpointing the locations of China's food safety incidents.
In recent years, food safety has become a growing concern in China, as various deadly scandals such as toxic milk, tainted pork and dyed buns have been exposed by the country's media, sparking widespread fear.
A recent headline-grabbing case revolves around some vendors in eastern Shandong province spraying a formaldehyde solution on cabbage to keep the produce fresh during shipment.
On the homepage of the website, the food safety map, which was drawn by Wu himself, reveals the results of an investigation into China's food safety situation from 2004 to 2011. It shows that the number of provinces and regions with serious food safety problems has grown from four in 2004 to 11 in 2011.
"Once I was like a frog in warm water who did not care much about repeated food safety scandals, believing that the tainted food was an issue far away from my own life," Wu said, stressing that establishing the website had not been planned.
Wu recalled that in April 2011, after reading a news article about pork presented as beef after being manipulated with carcinogenic additives, he, who is especially fond of eating beef, suddenly realized, "You should never be indifferent about the misery of others, for maybe you are the next one who will suffer."
Wu decided to create a specialized website to expose food safety scandals in order to better inform people about the food safety situation and heighten public awareness about food safety supervision.
Wu said "throw it out the window" should be the attitude people take when dealing with food safety problems.
The website has gained increasing popularity among China's Internet users, and it even crashed on May 3 due to an overload of traffic, forcing Wu to register a new domain name.
Meanwhile, the municipal government of Shanghai also recently initiated some new measures to better regulate food safety.
On March 29, Shanghai opened a food safety complaint hotline to offer consultations and receive complaints and reports about food safety problems in the city.
Officials with the Shanghai Food Safety Commission said that in order to encourage consumers to aid the government in overseeing food safety, the city has decided that tip-offs on food safety problems can be rewarded with as much as 200,000 yuan ($31,747.25).
In the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, a food safety recall system has been established, and consumers can obtain all the detailed information concerning the food production process by using products' batch numbers.
The system has been applied to a few kinds of food products, including milk powder for infants.
"The world is imperfect, but it's worthwhile for us to struggle to make it better," Wu Heng said.