Hit variety show suspended after competition causes tons of bottled milk to be wasted
Published: May 05, 2021 07:32 PM
Promotion material of <em>Youth with You 3</em>   Photo: Sina Weibo

Promotion material of Youth with You 3 Photo: Sina Weibo

The production of hit Chinese variety show Youth With You Season 3 was suspended after the show, where trainees compete to become idols, was involved in a scandal of wasting large amounts of milk, amid the country's strengthened efforts in eradicating wasting food.

The scandal sparked heated criticism on social media, with many netizens calling for legal penalties for those who poured the milk into sewers, and the production team for designing this method even after China adopted the anti-food waste law on April 29. 

The suspension was announced by the Beijing Municipal Radio and Television Bureau on Tuesday. The notice did not specify reasons for the suspension, but it confirmed there were problems found after authorities investigated, based on public complaints, and it urged the production team to rectify the problems.

The production and broadcast platform of the show, iQIYI said Wednesday on Sina Weibo that it accepts all the criticism and will correct mistakes.

The show has been under criticism online before the suspension was announced. Many criticisms were targeted at the competition mechanism of the show, which encourages viewers to buy and consume bottled Mengniu brand milk as they need to scan the QR codes inside the caps of the bottles in order to vote for their favorite trainees.

Mengniu, a major dairy brand in China, is the biggest sponsor of the show. 

The mechanism led young fans to purchase large amounts of the milk they couldn't drink, so they just scanned the codes and poured the milk into sewers.

A video showing piles of bottled milk, possibly hundreds of boxes, being dumped directly into sewers went viral online in late April, which was widely criticized.

Piles of bottled milk are poured into sewers. Photo: screenshot from Weibo

Piles of bottled milk are poured into sewers. Photo: screenshot from Weibo

"They forgot how many children in rural areas cannot afford one bottle of milk and their well-off lives make them forget how precious food is … The production team and the milk company should all be punished under the new law," one netizen commented on Sina Weibo.

The Xinhua News Agency also posted a commentary on Tuesday, criticizing the production company and the sponsor who forgot their social responsibility when they decided to use such promotion method. The behavior misled young people and eroded their values. 

The new anti-food waste law stipulates that individuals and organizations that make and circulate programs that promote big eaters will face a fine of between 10,000 ($1,545) and 100,000 yuan. The program producer may be ordered to suspend its business and the people in charge will be held accountable. 

The law can be used against ongoing misconduct, but it may not be applicable to punish the milk dumpers in this case as they wasted food before the law took effect, legal experts said. 

An anonymous legal expert told the Global Times that the use of the law should be based on specific cases and in this case, even if the company did not promote big eaters, its program led to the waste. It should be fined accordingly. 

Shi Wenxue, a cultural critic who is based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday that production companies and celebrities have a responsibility to guide young people, whose value system is still in formation, to avoid such behavior.