J500 Media and the Environment

Dead Milkmen by mstinawood

In January, a Chinese court sentenced two men to death for their roles in the melamine milk scandal. The tainted milk is responsible for ailing 300,000 people and killing at least six children. Zhang Yujun, 40, is one of the men sentenced to die for making over 600 tons of the powder used to raise the protein content of diluted milk. The affected milk had been watered down in an effort to increase product and profits. Melamine was then added because the nitrogen content simulates protein in nutritional testing. Ingestion of the industrial compound can cause kidney stones or kidney failure in large doses. Melamine is typically used to produce plastics and fertilizers. The second man sentenced to die, Geng Jinping, is responsible for producing and selling toxic food.

I take issue with this situation for the following reasons: I believe these sentences were handed out in an attempt by the Chinese government to save face and appear that they are handling the situation properly. If Chinese officials were interested in quality control and food regulation this disaster would have been averted. The simple truth is monitoring manufacturers costs money, money they rather not invest in oversight. In China’s race to the top of the industrialized world they have let proper production practices fall by the way side. The damage caused by their lack of regulation has not only cost lives, but trust. I believe that they are their own worst enemy and are facilitating their own economic demise. Unless the Chinese government implements laws and regulations to manage their industries, people around the world will continue to reduce their consumption of Chinese products. The real tragedy is that so many people had to die in order to spur much needed consumer awareness.

Tina Wood

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8 Comments so far
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So how do you think we should deal with issues like this in the US? The contaminated peanut butter this year? Tomatoes last year? You might questions standards of food from other countries but what about our own? We have standards in place but they’re violated all the time.

Comment by meganr21

A watchful eye definitely needs to be maintained on the Chinese and their economic growth. The thing is, they desire to join the United States as a world power and though we fear the repercussions of this goal, we continue to support their reckless, environmentally-destructive path of production. I’m not saying that all Chinese companies are participating in bad practices, but the government definitely needs to step up the regulation and be more cautious.

Comment by janiec52

I agree that the Chinese are all about saving face in situations like these. Do the two death sentences justify the people they harmed and killed? Maybe. China’s economy has grown so much in recent years, I doubt they had the ability to properly regulate the industry. I know this won’t be the last time that we will see this problem with China.

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Comment by matthewtb

There are certain tests, called “bright-line tests” that are used in the food industry (and elsewhere) to regulate how much “unwanted” material ends up in your food. A made-up example would be something like two parts of mouse droppings to every 10 parts of cereal.

This seems like a scary way to regulate food, but the cost to examine it any further is too great. The bright-line tests for baby food a a bit stricter, which is why baby food is typically more expensive than conventional “adult” food.

Comment by Lauren Keith

Its hard to say whether or not the death sentences justify the victims of the poison. Unfortunately, I think there will be others ready and waiting to take over for the fallen manufacturers. Where there is money to be made, more often than not, there is corruption and I don’t think this will be the last of Chinese production scandals.

Comment by christinaw09

We have all agreed that we can care about the environment and sustainability without being perfect. I am glad we have this blog/class to support each other in learning more and slowly changing our lives!

Comment by tylerw09

i agree with all that has been said. we wouldn’t have criminals if people didn’t have the pervasive thought that they won’t get caught and they are the smartest people in the room.

that is why it is so important that the government regulates industry. humans are wonderful, but we can’t trust them within this warped supercapitalist system.

Comment by brennad87

My sense is the officials were part of a much more complex web of problems. Megan brings up a great point about this happening here in the U.S. as well as abroad. Yujun and Jinping were sentenced to death in China because their negligence resulted in deaths. What would be a more appropriate sentence? And what should happen to the people responsible for the salmonella deaths here at home?

Comment by j500

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