Confidence in consumption
Updated: 2013-03-15 07:18
Every year around March 15, which has been designated International Day for Protecting Consumers' Rights, the media tell consumers ways they can distinguish quality goods from substandard ones.
Usually the day is used to try and raise consumers' awareness of their rights and the various kinds of tricks that are used to deceive them. But the advice and the activities held to mark this occasion do not get to the root cause of shoddy goods or poor service.
Take meat injected with water, for example. It is no secret that some butchers and meat dealers inject water into all kinds of meat in order to make more money.
It is important to alert consumers to the problem, and it is better to instruct them in how to protect themselves from potential harm. The root cause of the problem, however, is butchers' profit-driven wrong-doing. Investigations have also revealed some butchers can bribe meat quality checkers.
There have been many scandals involving the ways consumers are cheated; a lot has been said and done about enhancing watchdog oversight. But the outcomes have been less than desirable.
When we were informed that duck farmers feed their birds some kind of dye to make the eggs they produce look nicer, we condemned the farmers as heartless. When we learned that some dairy producers had used the dangerous industrial chemical melamine to increase the protein content in their milk, we called for harsher punishments for the culprits.
Since safety-related scandals have brewed pervasive fear of some of our most important daily supplies, there is a pressing need to make a substantial difference. More limelight needs to be focused on watchdog functions and law enforcement.
There is nothing wrong with arming consumers with a better sense of self-protection. But it is more effective for the government to take harsher actions against wrong-doing.
That is how consumers can have confidence in consumption.
As the National People's Congress approved government restructuring on Thursday, supervision over the safety of food and medicine, at least, will be consolidated as a major part of the reform. This is a new beginning for the government to protect consumers' interests and make their confidence last.
(China Daily 03/15/2013 page9)