'Food is the god for the people.' This traditional Chinese wisdom highlights the utmost importance of having sufficient food to feed China's huge population. These days, however, the wisdom is being severely tested from a new angle, as shown by the latest food scare hitting Hong Kong and the mainland. In Hong Kong, the general public and media have raised practical concerns and urged the SAR government to strengthen the food safety and food inspection regime. On the mainland, however, the questions are more philosophical, with newspapers headlines pondering questions such as, 'What can one really eat these days?' or, 'Is there anything left that one can eat without any worry?' Well, there isn't much. The latest food scare started early last month when CCTV reported that duck eggs in Hebei were contaminated with carcinogenic dyes. The scare spread fast and widened as tests also revealed that turbot had been treated with banned antibiotics and that bean curd sheets may contain cancer-causing chemicals. These chemicals and antibiotics are used to keep produce fresh, to protect it from disease, and to enhance colour. The latest food scare even has Olympic implications. Some overseas media have raised the question of whether antibiotics-tainted food may land on the plates of athletes at the Beijing Games in 2008, or whether that excuse could be used by those hauled up on doping charges. For obvious reasons, the latest scare has prompted calls for better food safety and inspection regimes, which both Hong Kong and central government officials have duly promised. Government reassurances will certainly help ease people's concerns, but only temporarily. The issue is no longer a matter of better safety and inspections. Once or twice, one could blame inspectors, but the latest food scare is among dozens to have hit the mainland and Hong Kong, which imports most of its fresh food from mainland producers, in the past few years. In 2004, the country was shocked by revelations that a group of unscrupulous businessmen had manufactured and sold fake baby formula that led to dozens of children dying in Anhui . Anyone who fancies hot pot on the mainland in winter should avoid ordering chilli paste for the pot. The chances are that it is dispensed from a big container of paste recovered from hot pots used by other diners hours or even days ago. With the paste being thick and dark, it is difficult to tell the difference. According to media reports, businessmen use paraffin wax to process rice to make it look fresh, banned chemicals to enhance lean meat on pigs, antibiotics when feeding shrimps and crabs to protect them from disease and banned insecticides on vegetables. The list goes on and on. And with each revelation, the authorities have come out in force to promise tougher controls. But there is always another food scare soon afterwards. For many, including your correspondent, these are the vivid signs of social degradation. Nowadays, many mainlanders will do anything to make quick money, even though their actions may pose health hazards and even cost many innocent lives. The country is losing its soul to the unscrupulous pursuit of money after more than 25 years of economic reforms and opening up which have seen leaps and bounds in the living standards of the Chinese people. President Hu Jintao's efforts to promote his theory of 'social harmony' and socialist concept of honour and disgrace are laudable. But the problem is that the Communist Party has lost its moral authority amid rampant official corruption and social unrest. To help mainlanders recover their moral compass, Mr Hu should waste no time in liberalising tight controls over religion and in promoting traditional Chinese culture and values. Meanwhile, get ready for more food scares.