Ever wonder what happens to whistleblowers in China? As it turns out, it looks shockingly similar to what happens to whistleblowers in the United States. Speaking up for the integrity of food is a tough fight, and it’s a battle that wages across continents.
Last month, a courageous Chinese whistleblower took a stand for food integrity. A Walmart employee at a branch in China was fired after reporting food safety concerns. He made disclosures revealing that the Shenzhen Walmart facility was selling expired meat, reusing cooking oil, and reselling rice contaminated by insects.
So bully for this guy! We need more brave whistleblowers like him to keep our food safe, including in China where food safety problems are seemingly endless and have literally gone to the dogs.
Unfortunately, whistleblowers are rarely the heroes in these stories (at least not in the minds of the industry). For speaking out, our friend in China suffered the retaliation treatment that U.S. whistleblowers so often receive: He was fired. The Walmart employee defended himself in the China Daily, explaining that he didn’t blow the whistle because he was disgruntled (a common industry characterization of a whistleblower’s intent) but “because of his conscience.”
Walmart assured the public that it “encourages its employees to reflect different opinions through various channels” in China. It further added that it “won’t tolerate any violations of company rules, job requirements, work process, or any severe misconduct.” That’s hard to believe when the company has penalized an employee for trying to keep rancid oil and spoiled meat from unassuming consumers. In fact, Walmart’s actions certainly look like vindictive retaliation.
One positive is that there’s video of Walmart’s wrongdoing (because, fingers crossed, there’s no Ag Gag look-alike in China). Video is traditionally a whistleblower’s best friend, and with any luck, the footage will vindicate our transcontinental whistleblower. In the meantime, FIC stands in solidarity with him.
It takes a community to hold wrongdoers accountable. FIC supports and empowers that community – here and abroad.
Amanda Hitt is Director of the Food Integrity Campaign.