China, worried about food security, cracks down on 'big stomach kings'

Consumers choose vegetables at a supermarket in Shanghai, China on March 10, 2016. (REUTERS File Photo)
Consumers choose vegetables at a supermarket in Shanghai, China on March 10, 2016. (REUTERS File Photo)

SHANGHAI, August 13 (Reuters): China's biggest short-video platforms said on Thursday they will punish users seen to be wasting food in their broadcasts, cracking down on so-called "big stomach kings" as the government urges against food wastage in the middle of a pandemic.

President Xi Jinping called food wastage "shameful" this week as China also seeks to curb a growing trend among internet celebrities who have gained hordes of fans in recent years by eating large amounts of food in a short time on video.

Short-video platform Douyin, which is owned by ByteDance, said users searching for keywords such as "eating broadcast" or "big stomach kings" would now be shown prompts urging them to "reject waste and eat reasonably".

"With respect to any actions that waste food, once discovered, the platform will at the first moment impose penalties according to the degree of the violations," Douyin said in a statement. "We call on users to cherish food."

China said in May it would draft a response plan for ensuring food security in 2020, as it worried about the disruptions to the agriculture supply chains from the global pandemic.

Xi on Tuesday said in a speech published by state media that the amount of food that was wasted in China was "shocking" and urged the country to maintain a sense of crisis about food security, prompting many local governments to launch related campaigns and restaurants to raise penalties on buffet wastage.

"Big stomach kings" livestreamers, in particular, were called out by a programme by state broadcaster CCTV on Wednesday as encouraging wastage. The trend of celebrities, often with slim figures, eating copious amounts of food quickly first started in Japan and South Korea, according to local media.

Another short-video platform Kuaishou said on Thursday it would shut down any live broadcasts or ban accounts if users were found to be promoting the eating of large amounts or encouraging vomiting to eat more.

"We call on users to not overeat while creating," it said.