‘Trash meat’ outcry: China regulators consider ready-to-cook foods regulation amid public furore

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

China regulators are considering subjecting the local ready-to-cook (RTC) foods category to additional mandatory standards and regulations. ©Getty Images
China regulators are considering subjecting the local ready-to-cook (RTC) foods category to additional mandatory standards and regulations. ©Getty Images

Related tags ready to cook China

China regulators are considering subjecting the local ready-to-cook (RTC) foods category to additional mandatory standards and regulations in response to general public concerns over the food safety and quality.

RTC foods were a major topic of debate at China’s recent high-level Two-Sessions meeting discussing governance and regulatory development in the country, the country’s biggest annual political event attended by the National People’s Congress (NPC) and state political advisory body Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

The category had been under fire after a TV exposé climes Chinese RTC products were being manufactured using poor ingredients and in unsavoury conditions. One of the most jarring discoveries was the use of 槽头肉 or ‘trash meat’ to make some of these.

This portion of meat is a term with no literal English translation, but is close to the jowl and connects the head to the torso – it can contain components from the trachea as well as a large number of blood vessels and, most troublingly, lymph nodes containing waste material, so is generally considered harmful to the human body.

This discovery drew public ire to a level that saw parents gathering at schools to deliver home-made lunches and demand RTC foods be taken off the menus .China’s food safety authorities received significant criticism on social media channels such as Weibo for failing to detect and prevent the situation.

“The formulation of unified national standards for RTC foods needs to be accelerated,”​ NPC representative Gao Zicheng told the floor.

“This lack of national standards is at the root of the problem of RTC foods falling into public discord and the chaos in the industry.

“There also need to be comprehensive safety supervision and food certification systems in place, as well as the establishment of an effective traceability for these foods.”

This was seconded by CPPCC National Committee member Pi Jianlong, who added that these systems need to be in place from a legal perspective as well to protect consumers’ right to know what is in their foods.

“We need to ensure that this RTC foods traceability system be a multi-party effort such that supervision can be carried out effectively,”​ he said.

“There is also a need to clearly stipulate the methods and content of any relevant notifications through the entire supply chain, such that companies can also proactively inform consumers of any need-to-know updates via in-store announcements, menus or other means.”

Given that Chinese parents were amongst those that had the most severe reaction to the exposé, focus was also placed on school meals and whether RTC foods had any place in these locations.

“We need to be cautious when introducing RTC dishes and foods into schools or any other community food outlets as a normal part of the menu,”​ CPPCC National Committee and All-China Federation of Industry and commerce member Ding Zuohong said.

“There need to be better entry thresholds enacted for this industry as part of these standards, as well as more standardised financial and capital support, such that this does not happen again.”

RTC foods in China have become increasingly prized over the past few years due to the convenience and affordability factors, and RTC versions for most dishes including complicated ones like sour-soup beef and mustard greens braised pork.

In addition to consumer retail purchases, many restaurants in China especially those focused on quick service or fast food have also turned to RTC products in an effort to save time and cost, leading to these having widely pervaded the food and beverage industry in general.

Rumours galore

Some Two Sessions participants also expressed a need to quash ‘unscientific’ rumours circling in the food industry in order to prevent further chaos down the line – this was likely due to some netizens categorising many RTC products as all being under the same umbrella as those who had used low-quality or unsavoury ingredients when in fact many reputable manufacturers were adhering to high quality and safety standards.

“There seems to also be a need to establish a multi-sectoral rumour management system, encouraging academia and scientific research institutions to play their role in the food industry and combat against misinformation,”​ CPPCC National Committee member and China Society of Food Science and Technology Chairman Sun Baoguo said.

“This is particularly so when rumours are circulating around food safety as this involves an entire industry, and special rectification actions may need to be taken against such rumours.

“It is recommended that China’s Cyberspace Administration amongst other departments take a good look at this and clarify where food safety rumour management responsibilities should fall, and what objectives we should work towards.”

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Elevate your snacks with novel cheese flavours

Elevate your snacks with novel cheese flavours

Content provided by Givaudan | 23-Feb-2024 | Product Brochure

Aside from conducting desk research to understand snacking preferences and taste profiles among consumers in the Asia Pacific, Givaudan also embarked on...

How Korean culture penetrated the APAC food industry?

How Korean culture penetrated the APAC food industry?

Content provided by BIOSPRINGER, natural Yeast ingredients | 17-Jan-2024 | White Paper

Korean food is on-trend in Asia. We mainly find Korean taste in noodles, sauces & dressings, pickled condiments, ready meals and savory snacks.

Empowering Women Through the Life Cycle

Empowering Women Through the Life Cycle

Content provided by Glanbia Nutritionals | 07-Nov-2023 | Product Brochure

As discussions around female empowerment widen, and advances in women’s health access and provision accelerate, the implications for business, healthcare,...

The World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit, Dubai, Dec 4-5

The World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit, Dubai, Dec 4-5

Content provided by World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit Dubai | 01-Nov-2023 | Event Programme

The renowned World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit has been taking place since 2013 in London, San Francisco and São Paulo. Now launching in the Middle East,...

Related suppliers

Follow us


View more


Food & Beverage Trailblazers

F&B Trailblazers Podcast