Even though many actors in the food safety landscape have showing strong commitment, food safety remains a big challenge in China. On Wednesday November 27 at the Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen, swissnex China collaborated with the EHL (hotel management school in Lausanne, Switzerland) organized a food safety event - “Envisioning Food Safety Solutions 2025”. 30 experts participated in the workshop aiming to find new potential solutions to the food safety challenges in China.
All the experts were divided into small groups targeting different issues according to the supply chain comprises producer (farm), distributor, food processor, distributor/wholesale, retailer, caterer, and end consumer.
But, who exactly is responsible for what kind of problems in the food supply chain?
Farms: Excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers is one of the causes for unsafe food. Also, environmental pollution (of soil and water) causes contamination, which is also due to the proximity of farming areas and industry.
Distributors: As agricultural products pass through a number of distributors, foodstuff originally not contaminated can get mixed up with contaminated ones, which lead to cross-contamination.
Food processors: Overdose of chemicals is a challenge to food safety. Compared to food processors in Europe and the US, small Chinese food producers bear virtually no risks of losing their reputation. It has been reported that small food processors close down when problems occur and open up again in a different place and/or under new names. This decreases their motivation to make sure the food they produce is safe.
Retailers: Small retailers, e.g. on wet markets, again do not bear the risk of reputation losses. Wholesale retailers and larger retailers face challenges with the large number of certificates of their suppliers. Control and management is complicated which facilitates fraud. Labeling of products sold to consumers can be inaccurate, not up-to-date or missing.
Caterers (hotels and restaurants): Restaurants and hotels face might need to source food from many different sources, which make it difficult to ensure its safety. Again, small enterprises do not need to care too much about reputation losses.
From the consumer perspective, the major problems were information transparency, lack of public awareness and traceability. To deal with these problems, one small group of experts conducted a brainstorming session to come up with ideas of possible solutions, which include
1. More Education and Awareness
- Provide education to farmers
- Educate consumers to have more concerns and knowledge of food
- Offer training for international standard
- Establish training programs for local government
- Call for related party attention
- NGO for consumer education
- School education on food safety
- MOOCS + certification of people
2. Increase Information Transparency
- Website for food scandals
- 3rd Party information
- Information transparency with QR code
- Establish food network
- Create instant food safety apps with review and rating from consumers and authorities
- Develop home DIY Testing Kit
3. Increase Traceability
- Establish and apply international standards using one language
- Health certificate for food workers
- CCTV tracing
- Smart package
- Smart labeling
4. Shorten the supply chain
- Consumers go to the farms and buy products there
- E-trading (Producer sells directly to the end consumer)
One of the approaches to realize the solutions was Smart Package (with QR code, for example). The food processors pack their product with the smart package to identify their product , which increases the traceability of the food product, improves the communication between the food processor and the end consumers to build up the trust.
Similar brainstorming discussions were conducted in different groups for respective solutions. At the end, a cocktail session was followed to let each group presented their discussion results as well as for further networking.