China continues to struggle in its efforts to improve food safety regulation and oversight, in the wake of a succession of food safety problems. A recent news report revealed hidden-camera footage showing Shanghai processing plant workers using meat that was expired and meat that had been dropped on the floor to make burger patties and chicken products for fast food restaurants. "Although China is by outward appearance an incredibly modern and vibrant society, it just doesn't have a long history of regulatory control, of checks and balances, where somebody is making the decision, 'If the meat falls on the floor, should I put it back in?'" said a Seattle-based consumer lawyer in a recent New York Times article. Other observers cite the lack of a vigorous civil torts system in China as a contributing reason for the continued food safety problems, arguing that such high-stakes cases influence companies' behavior. In the same article, a professor of food microbiology at Rutgers University recently described China as "kind of like the U.S. in the time of Upton Sinclair and 'The Jungle,'" referring to the 1906 novel that described unsanitary conditions in the meatpacking industry. "There is tremendous desire by the Chinese to get it right, but they have a long way to go."
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