How does CIFST contribute to food safety in China?
CIFST: “CIFST has always attached great importance to the standardisation of food safety, and lists the formulation and revision of food safety standards as an important part of its annual work priorities. In recent years, in the process of developing and revising China’s national food safety standards, CIFST has organised a strong scientific and technological community to safeguard the healthy and sustainable development of the industry. In 2016-2018, CIFST participated in the development and revision of more than 20 food-related standards. CIFST has participated in the formulation and revision of the National Food Safety Standard-Good Manufacturing Practice for Milk Products, the National Food Safety Standard-Good Manufacturing Practice for Powdered Formulae for Infants and Young Children and other national standards related to hygienic design in food production; with an increasing focus on food hygiene factory design, CIFST has gradually shifted the focus of food safety control to the hygienic engineering and design of food factories.
In order to better align the testing method with international standards, CIFST has signed a cooperation agreement with AOAC, and further established the working direction for CIFST-AOAC cooperation to gradually align the testing method with international standards. In order to effectively carry out the publicity and implementation work for food safety standards, answer questions for the industry, and promote the implementation of standards, CIFST has coordinated relevant authorities, expert teams and related enterprises in the process of standard formulation and revision to increase the interpretation, publicity and implementation of standards, and used the institute’s conference reports, seminars and a variety of new media to explain relevant national standards.”
What added value does EHEDG and the EHEDG Regional Section China offer to CIFST and food industry stakeholders in China?
“EHEDG is a well-known professional organisation dedicated to food hygiene engineering design. Its credibility and recognition level in the global food industry is self-evident. At the end of 2015, at the invitation of EHEDG, Meng Suhe, President of CIFST, visited Europe with a group of people. After field visits to and exchanges with local food and related enterprises, testing centers and EHEDG headquarters, the two sides signed a strategic cooperation agreement and agreed to assist the promotion of EHEDG’s philosophy across China so as to provide technical guidance to the whole process from plant design, equipment procurement to manufacturing installation and operation and maintenance for Chinese food enterprises so as to ensure the safety of food production. CIFST has held a series of seminars, training sessions and other activities with the support of EHEDG.
In 2016-2018, training sessions on food hygiene engineering and design were successfully held in Shanghai, Beijing and other places for three rounds, including the session in 2017 when Mr. Knuth and Mr. Gregorio went to Beijing to offer training, which was highly praised by the trainees for professionalism and practicality. In 2018, the EHEDG World Congress on Hygienic Engineering & Design was successfully held in London. The Chinese delegation was invited to attend the meeting. Through communication with EHEDG, the two sides enhanced mutual understanding and friendship. In addition, well-known multinational businesses in the area of food hygiene design, represented by ACO and Ecolab have long been actively participating in and supporting EHEDG in China. For CIFST, through continuous cooperation with EHEDG, CIFST has increased its voice in the area of food hygiene engineering in China and expanded its influence in the area; further improved its expert team in the area of food engineering and design in China through the export of technology and experience from EHEDG; promoted the diversified development of its business and strengthened the business contact and cooperation with related enterprises.
In the Chinese food industry, the focus is previously put on the technological advancement of equipment and processes, neglecting the cleaning and disinfection of pipelines, the hygienic design of water supply and drainage and other steps in the production process. Through the contact and exchanges with EHEDG, the design concept of food factories has been changed, with a strengthened food safety system management that provides technical confidence for ensuring food safety from the source. China has a huge food market and its food industrialisation level is on the rise. The production environment and technologies of food businesses are mixed, with many places in need of improvement. It is expected that EHEDG and CIFST will have more cooperation in the future.”
What are the challenges for the upcoming years (in relation to the further industrialisation of the Chinese food industry and/or demographic food trend developments)?
“China’s food industry has developed steadily in the country, the world’s largest and most attractive market, but not without setbacks. The food industry, which accounts for 11.2% of the country’s industrial economy, has many blanks in the core technologies of bioengineering, intelligent manufacturing, genetic engineering and many other fields. This requires the joint efforts of all food science and technology workers. In aspects such as food safety assurance, quality and brand improvement, environmental protection, energy conservation and emission reduction, industrial innovation and development, policy revision and improvement, and consumer education and guidance, all parties must make unremitting efforts and overcome difficulties to realise the healthy and sustainable development of China’s food industry so as to meet the people’s growing need for a better life.”
How do you envision the further collaboration between CIFST and EHEDG?
“EHEDG has advanced food engineering and hygiene design concepts and technologies, and has the authoritative certification capability in the industry. In the future, I hope that CIFST and EHEDG will strengthen cooperation in further promoting food engineering and hygiene design concepts and technologies in China, and step up cooperation in food hygiene engineering and design training sessions, seminars, EHEDG lecturer recommendation, and journals and magazines. The two sides may cooperate in multiple ways to spread more food hygiene design concepts.”
For outsiders it looks as if there's no clear formal hierarchy between the many national and local government departments that oversee and enforce food safety policies in China. How do new food safety regulations arise in your country?
“China has a long food industry chain and many departments are involved. The State Council established a food safety committee to set up the overall coordination mechanism that is committed to promoting inter-departmental policy coordination and cross-regional collaboration for food safety. Based on maintaining and promoting health, a food safety management model suitable for China has been formed.
Article 28 of the Food Safety Law of the People’s Republic of China further stipulates that “the establishment of national food safety standards shall be based on the results of food safety risk assessment and fully consider the results of risk assessment of edible agricultural products, with reference to relevant international standards and international food safety risk assessment results. The draft national food safety standards shall be released to the public to solicit opinions of food producers, traders, consumers, and relevant departments”.
What can China learn from other countries and what can the global food industry learn from China?
“As the country with the largest population in the world, China is of key importance in safeguarding food safety. It also faces great challenges in ensuring both quantity safety and quality safety. After years of integrated management and strict control, China’s food safety environment has shown a steady and improving trend, and food industry governance experience with Chinese characteristics are also formed: for a long time, the Chinese government has attached great importance to food safety and has always treated food safety as a major political task. As a priority issue in the field of public safety, food safety is managed in accordance with the “most stringent standards, regulation, punishment and accountability system”.
The country has improved laws and regulations, supervision systems, integrated regulation and investment support to continuously enhance the ability in food safety governance, fully demonstrating the institutional advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics. More than 300 colleges and universities in China have set up food safety majors. The training of food professionals is undergoing a shift from quantity to quality, and efforts have been stepped up in training talents in food quality and safety majors so as to provide sufficient technical talent reserve for the future development of China’s food industry. With the extensive application of a large number of emerging technologies such as industrial cloud, big data, AI and blockchain in the food industry, science & technology and the food industry will realise seamless connection in the whole industry chain of raw material production, processing and manufacturing, and circulation and consumption. Sci-tech innovation has become a new driving force for the development of China’s food industry.”