Take a walk through the downtown Beijing and you’ll find streets lined with popular eateries that serve skewered meats and cold dishes such as garlic cucumber salad and cold tofu skin. A new ban on outdoor grills is forcing many of these shops to close in an effort to combat dangerously high smog levels. Under new measures, even cold dishes, decorative, cakes, and raw seafood products are not allowed to be eaten outdoors.
Beginning May 1, 2014, a new law has been implemented to enforce the ban. Under the Interim Measures on Management of Summer Al Fresco Dining,” all outdoor grills must be moved indoors. The new law also restricts where outdoor dining can take place. Violating the outdoor grilling ban in will result in a fine of up to 20,000 yuan ($3,200).
“Summer food preparation should take place indoors, then be served outdoors. Outdoor barbecuing, food preparation, or the sale of other food are not permitted.”
-Excerpt from Interim Measures on Management of Summer Al Fresco Dining
All of this comes in lieu of a recent report released by the Freedonia Market Research Group that shows a growth in the outdoor grilling industry here in the US. Many food stall vendors in Beijing use skewers to grill chicken wings, vegetables, and lamb meat. This is a common site in Beijing especially during the warm summer months.
The Old Grilling Ban from 2013
A similar campaign was undertaken back in 2013 by Beijing city officials. The result; 500 illegal grills were destroyed by city enforcers. Outdoor grilling is a very popular tradition in Beijing and officials are not blind to this fact.
“On the one hand, this kind of dining is very popular, and so it’s a big business. On the other, both customers and businesses will not cooperate with law enforcement, or will cooperate with each other to give law enforcement difficulties.”
-Zhang Shuxia, Dongcheng District Law Enforcement Bureau Officer
China’s rapidly industrializing economic development has led to a serious problem with air pollution. In 2014, particulate readings in Beijing were 15 times the recommended safe limits. This placed air quality in the “orange zone;” the second highest level. Dwellers in Beijing have made it clear how they feel about the outdoor grilling ban. Late last week, protesters responded by burning buses in the city.
This could be an awakening to global concerns over air pollution. Some say that the recent ban is only an attempt to “blame pollution on everything except cars or coal.” While this may or may not be true, it will be interesting to see how other countries react to the outdoor grill ban in Beijing.
While the outdoor grilling industry continues to grow 4% annually in the US, it’s important to remember to grill responsibly. Outdoor grillers should observe local burn restrictions when warnings are released. Air pollution is a serious concern that affects everyone. According to the EPA, smog can cause asthma, respiratory inflammation, chest pain, nausea, pulmonary congestion, and other breathing conditions.
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