Fri, Jul 06, 2007 - Page 2 News List

City cancels kids' eating contest

FOLLY Following criticism, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin said the city government's decision to hold a pork rice eating competition for children had been a mistake

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei City Government yesterday acknowledged it had made a mistake in inviting kindergarten and elementary school children to join a pork rice (滷肉飯) eating contest to be held in front of the Hsinyi New Life Square on Sunday.

The upcoming Taipei Traditional Food Festival, aimed at promoting night market culture and pork rice, had included pork rice eating contests for four groups: kindergarten children, elementary school students, adults, and foreigners.

Contestants were warned to "take full responsibility for any health concerns due to the contest."

After being criticized for ignoring children's health by holding the eating contest, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday said the city government would revise the rules and cancel the contests for children.

"I agreed that it wasn't good for children to participate in an eating contest," Hau said yesterday at Taipei City Hall.

According to the Taipei City Markets Administration Office, the contest for kindergarten children and elementary school students required participants to eat a bowl of pork rice in three minutes. The contestant who finished the bowl fastest would be the winner.

Hau said the festival would now invite children to taste pork rice and then write down or draw a picture on their thoughts on the dish.

The office also revised the wording of advice on its Web site from "taking full responsibility for any health concerns due to the contest" to a reminder that asked contestants to consider their own health and not to force themselves to take part in the contest.

The festival, which runs through July 13, will involve a total of 22 pork rice vendors providing free samples for testing on July 13 at Ningxia Night Market, with the final round of the eating contest to be held at the same time.

Lin Lung-huang (林隆煌), chief pediatrician at Cathay General Hospital in Taipei, yesterday criticized the contest for exploiting children and setting a bad example.

"It's not right to use kids for publicity in this manner," Lin said. "They could choke. Children should always be taught to chew carefully. Encouraging them to bolt food down for a prize is irresponsible."

"Scoffing down such a greasy dish could result in indigestion and vomiting," he said.

Additional reporting by Angelica Oung

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