This study investigates food scandals and the role of government in corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the food industry and explores strategies for the Chinese government to tackle the food safety problems that abound in China. Based on the theoretical discussion of four types of CSR and the empirical evidence from four case studies, we argue that government influence on CSR in the food industry is determined by the intensity and salience of its own behavior and actions including regulations. We further believe that a balanced CSR strategy covering economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic considerations would work best for China. Our contributions include extending the CSR literature to the food industry and emerging economies like China and recognizing the distinctive role the government plays in the food industry. In addition, we provide a timely guide to establishing a food safety system in China.