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Food Scandals Prompt Organic Growth in China

Food safety scandals have helped propel rapid growth in the the organic food sector of China’s economy, according to the Telegraph.

“Interest has been promoted by a series of scares including toxic beans, contaminated milk and pork, pesticide-laced dumplings, chemically-tainted chicken, and the growing presence of what is known as ‘sewage oil,'” the paper reported Monday.

China now consumes more than twice as much organic food as health-conscious Japan. The market is worth an annual 10 billion yuan, or about $ 1.5 billion U.S. The U.S. organic market is worth about $25 billion annually.

The Telegraph profiled Xie Lili, 25, who runs an organic store on the internet. Lili said she had seen “a huge increase” in demand for organic salts, oils, and spices in the wake of the local food safety scares, especially the most recent revelation that up to ten percent of oil used in restaurants is recycled from sewer drains.

“The volume is 10 to 15 times greater. People became quite scared and preferred to cook at home,” she said.

The paper also highlighted a 4,000-acre Duoli Organic Farm founded near Shanghai in 2005.

“In Shanghai, because land is scarce and the city has 20 million people, farmers are using up to four times the recommended amount of pesticides to boost their yields,” Wang Tao, the organic farm’s quality control lead, told the paper.

Despite some help from government programs to encourage more sustainable farming methods, it will likely be a decade before organic food became mainstream, said Mr. Wang.

“It is very expensive, and mostly for rich people,” he said. “Also, Chinese people like to judge their food by how it looks, but organic food does not look so good. It is lumpy and has holes in it.”

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