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Public shows big appetite for food safety app

By Zheng Xin | China Daily | Updated: 2012-05-31 09:20

Call it food safety to take away.

A new application available for download is topping the medical category of the App Store soon after its release.

The China Survival Manual contains information on thousands of food safety scandals and updated warnings under 12 categories including health and nutrition, dairy and beverages.

It has been downloaded more than 200,000 times since its release on May 24, according to Shen Xi, a media relations staff at Kingsoft, developer of the application.

"It is high time we compiled information pertaining to food security scandals and inform the public of the potential hazard," she said. "However, the most important thing is to provide solutions to the public when a new scandal is exposed."

Chen Junshi, a food safety expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the skyrocketing popularity of the food safety application has to some extent reflected the seriousness of the issue in China at the moment.

"People are getting more concerned over whether the food they eat every day is safe," he said.

It is the first time Kingsoft has come up with an application related to food security.

"It is very informative and the warnings of potential food safety questions are always timely," said Ye Xiaowen, 25, who works in Tianjin and just downloaded the application two days ago.

"However, it seems to me that the company is trying to hype itself while food safety issues are plaguing the country," Ye said.

In response, Shen said the company invented the application to prevent people from falling prey to the hazardous food they consume.

"We just want to convey the message of food safety to the public while raising the country's awareness," she said.

Kingsoft should be encouraged for its efforts to help people fight food safety issues, as long as the information provided is "scientific, objective and impartial", Chen said.

However, he pointed out that some information prevalent among the public is false, exaggerated and groundless.

"We should face the problem in an objective way," he said.

The food safety issue has aroused increasing concern as continuous scandals have been exposed, including the use of food additive clenbuterol, which produces leaner meat but endangers human health, and gutter oil, illegal cooking oil made from kitchen waste and decomposed animal fat and organs from slaughterhouses.

The State Food and Drug Administration said on May 23 that the country will run a campaign from the end of May through September to inspect health and nutrition products and their manufacturers.

The campaign was in response to the recent scandal involving some Chinese pharmaceutical companies, which were alleged to have produced capsules with industrial gelatin extracted from leather waste, which contains a higher level of chromium than edible gelatin and might be toxic and carcinogenic if too much is ingested.

It is not the first time people have come up with countermeasures against food scandals in China.

Wu Heng, a third-year graduate student at Fudan University in Shanghai, set up a website in June, 2011, where users can find the latest news reports about food safety issues across the country by location or food type.

The site also allows the public to add information about food safety and propose questions.

The website received so many visitors that it crashed on May 3.

"I had thought tainted food was far from my life, but it's not," Wu said.