Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: Chinese Food Waste Law
Overview: China has passed a law that will ban competitive eating and binge-eating videos and fine restaurant patrons who leave “excessive” leftovers.
Population: 1.4 billion
Food policy category: Food waste prevention; food security
Program goals: To prevent food waste and improve food security.
How it works:
- Binge-eating videos will be banned.
a) Livestream videos of people binge-eating is a social media phenomenon called mukbang that began in South Korea and became increasingly popular and profitable in China as well. These videos often result in significant quantities of food being left uneaten or vomited. Anyone who distributes such a video will face a fine up to 100,000 yuan ($15,451).
- Competitive eating will be banned.
- Excessive leftovers will be banned.
a) Restaurants will have the right to charge an extra fee to any patron who leaves excessive quantities of uneaten food.
b) Vendors who deceive or mislead consumers into ordering excessive amounts of food could be charged up to 10,000 yuan ($1,547).
c) Restaurants that consistently waste large quantities of food may be fined up to 50,000 yuan ($7,735).
Progress to date: After years of nationwide campaigns against food waste, a draft law was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on December 23, 2020. The law was officially approved on April 29, 2021.
Why it is important: The Chinese Academy of Sciences has reported that, in 2015, 17 to 18 million tons of food were wasted at the point of consumption in four of China’s biggest cities. That is enough to feed 50 million people per year.
As of 2019, approximately two billion people worldwide (26 percent of the world’s population) were experiencing moderate to severe food insecurity.
Reducing food waste is one method of helping to alleviate global food insecurity and hunger.
Program/Policy initiated: The law was passed on April 29, 2021.
Point of contact: N/A
Similar practices: China launched a Clean Plate Campaign in August 2020 that encouraged citizens to order less food at restaurants and to eat everything on their plates in order to reduce food waste. However, that campaign did not provide specific information about how to implement or enforce it.
Evaluation: The law has not been in effect long enough to evaluate it.
- Drivers and Reduction Solutions of Food Waste in the Chinese Food Service Business (Sustainable Production and Consumption)
- Food Waste Management in Shanghai Full-Service Restaurants: A Senior Managers’ Perspective (Journal of Cleaner Production)
- The Psychology of Mukbang Watching: A Scoping Review of the Academic and Non-academic Literature (International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction)
- The Weight of Unfinished Plate: A Survey Based Characterization of Restaurant Food Waste in Chinese Cities (Waste Management)
- China Adopts Law Against Food Waste; Binge Eating, Excessive Leftovers to Face Fines (Global Times)
- China to Bring in Law Against Food Waste with Fines for Promoting Overeating (The Guardian)
- China Enacts Food Waste Law, Brings in Bans for Binge-Eating & Fines for Leftovers (AgFunder News)
- China Launches Clean Plate Campaign 2.0 as Xi Calls for End to Food Wastage (Global Times)
- China Passes Law Against Food Waste (CGTN)
- China Promotes Clean Plate Campaign to Reduce Food Waste (Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center)
- China’s Anti-Food Waste Law Vital to Ensure Food Security (The Herald)
- Food Wasted in China Could Feed 30-50 Million: Report (Chinese Academy of Sciences)
- The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
- What is ‘Mukbang’? Inside the Viral Korean Food YouTube Trend (Today)