Chinese Consumers Rally Behind Paris Baguette After Bakery Fined $85k

Paris Baguette has been fined 585,000 RMB after employees sold food to hungry Shanghai residents from an unlicensed location during the city’s lockdown

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5:29 PM HKT, Tue September 6, 2022 2 mins read

The Shanghai Municipal Government has fined Paris Baguette 585,000 RMB (about 84,324 USD) for violating food safety laws during Shanghai’s lockdown earlier this year. In a show of solidarity for the bakery, customers swiftly rushed to support the brand, and outlets across China soon sold out of baked goods.

Like many others, employees of Paris Baguette were temporarily barred from returning to their homes during the city-wide lockdown. Those who had been working at a food-processing factory found shelter at one of the company’s training centers.

In light of food shortages, they began accepting tuangou — aka ‘group food orders’ — from the local community.

As the brand’s food production license does not extend to its training facilities, police shut the whole operation down. According to food safety regulations, all equipment and raw materials used in unlicensed food production can be lawfully confiscated, and participating parties can be fined 10 to 20 times the value of their earnings (which must also be given up).

In line with this law, the city’s market regulation bureau fined Paris Baguette 10 times the amount their unlicensed operation made during the lockdown.

paris baguette products haul protest

One customer splurged on Paris Baguette goods to support the bakery chain. Image via Weibo

Chinese netizens have protested the decision to penalize Paris Baguette, saying that authorities should not punish the company for trying to provide food to locked down Shanghai residents during a challenging time.

“When no one has food to eat, selling food should be considered an emergency adaptation. Even if the company isn’t complying with regulations, we must consider the actual circumstances,” voiced one netizen on the microblogging platform Weibo.

Another made the following argument, “If a person fainted suddenly on the street and a doctor passing by rescued him, would the government think that the doctor broke the law for practicing medicine in a place where the doctor was unregistered?”

Meanwhile, others have railed against the perception that food regulations have been unjustly applied in the case of Paris Baguette.

“During the lockdown, there were some unheard-of brands, low-quality meat, and rotten food in my community group-buy orders. Do those food manufacturers have production licenses? How does the community food distribution system operate? Were there permits?” questioned one Weibo user.

paris baguette china

Examples of Paris Baguette’s group-buy packages during Shanghai’s lockdown. Image via WeChat

Many netizens have taken action to right what they see as an injustice by patronizing their nearest Paris Baguette branch, leaving many bakeries completely bereft of baked goods.

sold out paris baguette store

Empty shelves at a Paris Baguette store in China. Image via Weibo

paris baguette food pastry shanghai lockdown protest

One Weibo user’s Paris Baguette haul. Image via Weibo

In response to the furor, the Shanghai Market Regulation Bureau released a statement on September 3. The bureau stated that its primary goal was to protect the health and safety of citizens and that the punishment exacted upon Paris Baguette had been the bare minimum.

Contrary to what some might imagine, Paris Baguette is not French but a Korean multinational bakery chain that offers affordable bread, pastries, cakes, sandwiches, and other French-inspired fare. Belonging to Spc Group, the company has nearly 300 stores in China under the subsidiary Shanghai Spc Foodstuff Co., Ltd.

Cover image via Weibo

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