China’s Delivery Platforms are Finally Being Forced to Take Food Safety SeriouslySheng
China’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that ecommerce platforms in China can be held legally responsible for any issues that people have with food safety from items purchased on their online platforms.
Starting next year, ecommerce platforms will have to go through the process of registering food vendors and checking their business licenses to ensure quality. They will also be responsible for reporting any unsafe food sold on their platforms to supervision departments, as well as barring these vendors from selling food on their apps.
It has, of course, been a big year for China and food safety. This ruling comes in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which not only highlighted issues with wild animal consumption, but also led to a surge in online food orders.
Zheng Xuelin, chief judge of the court’s first civil division, said “since the outbreak of the pandemic this year, food deliveries and online activities have been unprecedently active.” He said ecommerce platforms were focused on because “online food purchases have certain risks: if the qualifications and reputations of online food operators cannot be guaranteed, it will easily lead to food safety issues.”
There have been repeated calls for increased regulation around food safety recently, especially since ecommerce giants like Alibaba, Meituan, and Pinduoduo have continued to expand their infrastructures for handling food.
The court released statistics that showed that of the 49,000 cases related to ecommerce disputes that they had heard since 2017, 45% of these cases were related to food.
Food safety isn’t the only scrutiny that China’s ecommerce and delivery platforms have faced during the pandemic. Food delivery practices were heavily criticized in a report by People Magazine in September. In a report which is now seeing echoes in US coverage of Doordash’s practices, the darker side of China’s delivery business was exposed, including the enormous pressure, tracking measures and dangerous conditions faced by drivers leading to a rise in accidents and extreme work-related stress.