Safe food is a fundamental: people want, and need, to know that every bite of food they take is safe to eat.’’
The scandals also have presented opportunities for US and other foreign-based companies to help tackle the country’s food-safety problems with products, services and expertise that range from pest management to hand hygiene.
Companies including Ecolab, AIB and NSF International have established operations in China to provide training, food product development and programs to develop new or improved testing procedures. US academic institutions also have partnered with their Chinese counterparts and the government to help China improve food regulation.
Among the most high-profile food scandals that have besieged Chinese consumers in recent years occurred in 2008. Powdered baby milk and other dairy products were found to contain dangerously high levels of the industrial chemical melamine. The incident left at least six babies dead and more than 300,000 ill.
US-based companies also have been tarred by scandal. Last summer workers at KFC and McDonald’s meat supplier Shanghai Husi Food Co – a unit of US-based OSI Group LLC – were shown in a television report reusing meat that had fallen to the factory floor, as well as mixing fresh and expired meat. Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer, recalled donkey meat sold at some outlets in China last year after tests showed the product contained fox meat.
Food safety is not a China-onlyproblem. As global trade has moved into the food chain, countries have found it difficult to maintain a food safety net with products coming in from all corners of the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that globally food and water-borne diseases lead to about 2.2 million deaths annually. WHO said that a study in 2011 showed that in China alone more than 94 million people become ill from bacteria food-borne disease every year, with approximately 3.4 million hospitalizations and more than 8,500 deaths.
“Many places in the world have food safety problems. It happens in every country, not just in China,” said Patrick Wall, co-chairman of the International Expert Panel on Food Safety at the International Union of
“There are two big food safety issues in China,” Meng told China Daily. “One is issues with contaminants in certain products and the use of low quality ingredients in order to meet production goals or to help the profit level. Another is safety in food handling, processing and transportation.”
Noting that China has more than 1.3 billion mouths to feed every day (more than four times that of the US), Meng said that “Safety is always going to be a challenge when you have to provide that much food.”
Meng said China offers US companies and colleges and universities numerous opportunities to help the government implement new and in some cases improved food-safety procedures.
Because food safety is so vital to both the US and China, Meng said the opportunity is there to extend the bilateral relationship by enabling the US to teach China how to produce safe food on a mass scale, to conduct inspections with integrity and to develop accurate risk assessments to head off potential problems.
AIB International started out as the American Institute of Baking, a not-for-profit corporation founded by North American wholesale and retail bakers in 1919 to improve technology for bakers and food processors.
The company has expanded to help clients elevate their food safety and production process capabilities by developing and delivering application-oriented learning, consulting, and value-added services. Based in Manhattan, Kansas, and closely connected to Kansas State University, AIB now has operations in Africa, China, Japan, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East.
AIB set up an office in Shanghai in