China's Interest in Organic Boosted by Food Scandals

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Melamine was found in milk products in 2008, causing wide-spread illness across China. (Photo: Uros Kotnik )
Melamine was found in milk products in 2008, causing wide-spread illness across China. (Photo: Uros Kotnik )


  • Tainted food supplies have made more consumers interested in organics
  • Consumers pay up to 33% more for organic food in China
  • Heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides are obstacles for organic growth

The organic food industry in China is gaining ground thanks to recent negative news surrounding the nation's food industy.

China’s latest food scandal involves a forbidden addictive, called Clenbuterol, which was found in consumer pork products. Clenbuterol causes dizziness and heart palpitations, and serves to help reduce fat in pigs, providing a leaner food product. According to the China Post, the pork processing company issued an apology.

This is not the first time food products have been contaminated with additivies in China. The additive melamine was found in milk products, eggs and animal feed a few years back. The contaminated food caused the sickness of hundreds of adults and children, as well as the death of four infants.

These toxic food incidents have prompted increased safety concerns among Chinese consumers, many of whom are now willing to pay more for organic food in hopes that they can avoid tainted products. Research conducted by the World Watch Institute reports that Chinese consumers pay up to 33% more for organic food products in China.

What is the cause of the price difference? In the recent past, China was a top producer of organic food with the ultimate goal to grow world exports. But the challenge to go organic was plagued by the country's heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides, and the venture did not succeed.

With renewed interest in natural food, companies in China are starting to develop environmentally friendly fertilizer products that help increase crop resistance against poor weather and other harmful elements. New solutions are essential if the food industry is to succeed in expanding production to meet the rising demands of the organic food market. 

Key Statistics - China Agribusiness (source: Business Monitor International)

  • More people are eating protein in China: Poultry and pork demand is expected to grow 25% and 23% respectively
  • 70% of China’s population is concerned about food safety
  • Corn production is expected to grow 23% through 2015

By C. Williams for
C. Williams is a journalist based in the United States. She has been covering the news for over a decade.

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