An empty plate campaign was launched after China’s president said the COVID-19 pandemic had “sounded the alarm” about food waste “and that the country must” keep a sense of the food security crisis, “the BBC reports.

The statement comes a few weeks after massive floods in southern China that affected farms and destroyed tons of production.

The state-run Global News Agency has tried to downplay what it calls media exaggerations that China is heading for a food crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the Chinese president’s message, the Wuhan Catering Industry Association asked restaurants to limit the number of servings through an “N-1” calculation system – which assumes that the dishes ordered will be one less than the number of people. For example, a group of 10 people can only order 9 servings.

But the system is unlikely to be implemented quickly, given that in China it is a sign of politeness to order more food than you need. Likewise, in a group, empty plates are perceived as an indicator of a bad host – signaling that he did not provide enough food to the guests.

The N-1 concept has drawn a lot of criticism on social media, with some denouncing the system as “too rigid”.

“What happens when a person goes to the restaurant alone? How many servings can he order? Zero? ”A person asked on the Weibo platform.

Others pointed out that there is no significant waste in restaurants – but rather at the extravagant banquets of officials.

The state-run CCTV denounced the Mukbang practice of live broadcasts (popular in Asian countries) in which people are filmed consuming large amounts of food. According to him, some will inevitably have to vomit it.

China also launched “Empty Plate Operation” in 2013 – but then targeted were the extravagant feasts and receptions of officials.