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China Bans Dumpling Eating Contest Following Online Complaints

Published: July 11, 2023
This picture taken on Dec. 27, 2013 shows Pan Yizhong (L) who has eaten 147 dumplings in one sitting, and polished off 40 bowls of noodles in 15 minutes. A recent dumpling eating contest was cancelled in China following online complaints. Communist authorities have long banned the practice saying it wastes food. (Image: WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images)

A spicy dumpling eating contest in the city of Yibin in China’s southwestern Sichuan province, has been banned following numerous online complaints which alerted authorities to the contest. Competitive eating has been banned in China for some time as part of the communist regime’s crackdown on food waste. 

The contest, dubbed the “Big Stomach Challenge,” pitted four contestants against each other to see who could eat 108 spicy dumplings in the fastest time possible. The winner would receive the title “King of the Big Stomach” and a free meal.

Chinese netizens however were up in arms when they noticed 20 of the spicy dumplings going to waste by one of the contestants in a video shared online by the restaurant for promotions.

Local officials accused the business owner of manipulating its customers into ordering an excessive amount of food resulting in wastage. 

In 2021, communist authorities implemented new laws to address food waste in the country after president Xi Jinping called China’s food waste both “shocking” and “distressing.” Businesses found to be in violation of the law are subject to fines up to 10,000 yuan or around US $1,383.

State media, moving in lockstep with communist authorities, said the law contributes to safeguarding food security in the world’s second most populous country. 

The legislation goes as far as to allow restaurant owners to levy a “waste disposal fee” for customers who order too much food and leave large amounts of food uneaten. 

34 million tonnes of food waste

According to a 2020 survey, conducted by China’s national legislature, a minimum of 34 million tonnes of food is wasted in the country by restaurants each year.

The shocking amount of food waste prompted communist authorities to implement the “clean plate” campaign, with party leader Xi Jinping urging the population to “maintain a sense of crisis about food security.”

The campaign was launched in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and mass flooding across southern China which negatively impacted harvests which raised concerns that China could be facing food shortages.

At the time, Global Times, a state-funded media outlet, downplayed concerns of food shortages calling it “media hype,” while state TV blasted livestreamers who filmed themselves binge eating. 

The concept of “N-1” took hold in many restaurants where diners had to order one less dish than the number of diners there were. So, if there were ten diners, only nine dishes could be ordered. 

The “N-1” idea was heavily criticised online in a country where it’s traditionally considered proper to order more food than is needed. Netizens argued that most diners don’t waste much and instead pointed to extravagant banquets held by the country’s elite. 

One netizen took to Chinese social media platform Weibo asking, “What if one person goes to a restaurant? How many dishes can he order? Zero?”


Over half of Chinese adults overweight

The crackdown on food waste also came after it was revealed that over half of China’s adults were considered overweight.

A National Health Commission report, released in December 2020, found that more than 50 percent of adults in China were considered overweight and 16.4 percent were considered obese. 

The report argued that the main culprit for the worrying results was a decrease in physical activity, and pointed out that less than a quarter of China’s adult population exercised at least once a week. 

The preference to eat meat as opposed to fruits and vegetables was also identified as contributing to growing waistlines. 

A nutritionist in Harbin, Wang Dan, told the BBC at the time that many adults in the country “exercise too little, are under too much pressure, and have an unhealthy work schedule.”

In 2016 China overtook the United States with the greatest number of obese people in the world, the BBC reported.