China: Vegetable vending machines take root
Vending machines stocked with vegetables such as carrots, peppers and tomatoes have become a common sight in China’s largest city, Shanghai.
QR codes now empower the consumer to check where these articles were grown and when they were harvested. Transparency of origin is vital information in a country that has endured years of shocking scandals that have seen dangerous and dubious food reach dinner tables. “It gives me peace of mind to be able to buy safe vegetables easily, knowing where they came from,” a Shanghai local said. “Nowadays, fewer and fewer stores sell vegetables the way they did in the past, and it’s convenient to have more of these vending machines.”
The Shanghai government has stepped up efforts to put more machines into service in recent years, entrusting produce procurement and machine management to contractors. The machines sit in 2,100 locations, many of them on condominium premises. A portion are locker-type facilities allowing online ordering and next-day pickup.
“We can provide safe food to residents by securing produce sourced from safe sources,” a Shanghai government official said.
An asia.nikkei.com article shows that the need for safe food supplies is certainly there. In China, babies died in 2008 after drinking tainted formula. A chicken wholesaler was found in 2014 to have supplied expired meat to fast-food chains including McDonald’s. And – unbelievably – gutter oil collected from sewage drains has made its way into restaurant kitchens as cooking oil.