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May 4, 2012

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Food-safety website crashes on overload

A POISONOUS food alert website, created by a local postgraduate student, crashed due to severe overload yesterday as visitors thronged the site to learn about food safety amid an unending stream of food scandals in China.

The website has a record of the latest 2,300 food problems in the country, with detailed reports and victim numbers. It maps different areas with different colors to show the degree of food problems.

The website went down at about 10am yesterday when tens of thousand of netizens visited it at the same time. The website was back online late last night, after it rented a new server to meet the huge demand.

The website founder, Wu Heng, is a 26-year-old postgraduate student majoring in history at the city's Fudan University.

After reading all the gory headlines about toxic milk, tainted pork and reused "gutter oil", Wu chose to do something to shed light on the food problems and press for change.

Last June, he launched the website Zhi Chu Chuang Wai (Throw It Out of the Window,, referring to bad food) documenting and geographically mapping out food scandals nationwide since 2004.

He even postponed his graduation for a year to create the website, which has attracted 350,000 visitors so far.

"I am frustrated to find there has not been much improvement in the situation over the past year," Wu told Shanghai Daily, alluding to the solid yogurt and medical capsules tainted by industrial gelatin scandals unmasked recently.

"I liked yogurt a lot," he said. "But now I seldom eat it."

With rising awareness about food safety, Wu's website has gained increasing popularity, which hit a peak after famous Chinese angel investor Xue Manzi recommended the site to his followers on his microblog at the end of last month.

With the help of 30-plus online volunteers, Wu has created the map and database of China's reported food safety problems since 2004. The website is accessible to the public who can add events and other information, update and enrich the database.

Based on the database, Wu released a report on food safety in China last year, claiming it was the first to be compiled by ordinary folks.

Shanghai ranked as the fourth worst city with Beijing the worst, according to the report.


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