Written by: John Spink
Primary Source: Food Fraud Initiative
Dr. Spink with book editors Dr. Junshi Chen and Dr. Joseph Jwu-shan Jen
This book was created by two of the top handful of Chinese food safety government advisors. Editor Dr. Joseph Jwu-shan Jen stated that this is a landmark publication that will establish the foundation for the state-of-the-art-of the science. They stated “It is the first comprehensive book that covers the many aspects of food safety… in China.” Editor Junshi Chen has been referred to as the “father of Food Safety in China.”
Food Safety in China
Dr. Chen specifically commented “It should be noted that there are still many food safety issues in China. Surveillance and the control of microbial foodborne illnesses are still weak. Food Fraud is quite common at present. Risk communication is facing great challenge. IN order to improve the quality and safety of Chinese food products, emphasis should be put in safety assurance of the whole food chain by industry and seamless inspection and control by regulatory agencies.”
The book covers the full range of Food Safety topics including mycotoxins, viruses, food borne illness and surveillance, pesticide residue, economic factors, veterinary medicines residue, packaging, traceability, and heavy metal contamination.
Chapter on Food Fraud
The author team for our chapter on Food Fraud was led by Dr. Yongning Wu, the Chief Science Officer of the Chinese National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA). The CFSA colleague included Laboratory Director Dr. Hong Miao. CFSA is leading the Chinese research on Food Fraud. The second author group was from the Beijing Center for Disease Control led by Director Bing Shao and Deputy Director Zhang Jing. We have been working together on a number of articles and have presented together at many conferences.
Our chapter on Food Fraud leverages and builds upon our previous co-authored journal publications that are usually published in English with Chinese translations. A few highlights from our chapter on Food Fraud include:
- History of Food Fraud in China – While we cover the more recent examples such as melamine in infant formula, many of these examples were new to me because many of the source documents are still only in Chinese. “Pliny the Elder” is a Roman philosopher and scientist who is often referred to as one of the earliest recorded mentions of Food Fraud-related concepts but he lived 23 to 70 AD. The earliest Chinese example of published regulation of the food trade was in “The Book of Rites” published in the Zhou Dynasty (1046 to 256 BC).
- Investigation of Incidents – In the US there is a recent concern of Federal criminal prosecution for the business leaders rather than just penalties for the company. This incarceration pales in comparison to the “For serious cases of food fraud the law allows the extreme penalties including life imprisonment and the death penalty.” This achieves the goal of getting the attention of the fraudsters. Beyond the harsh penalties, the laws and enforcement activities reinforce a focus on prevention. The new Chinese Food Law and general activities are including a major focus on process control, not just product testing. Further research will be conducted on the 2015 Chinese Food Safety Law and in relation to the nation’s 13th Five-Year Plan.
- Prevention – Co-author Dr. Wu has been a Food Fraud research collaborator so it is logical that the scope and prevention focus is similar to the concepts generally globally accepted. I find that the Chinese government has a very practical and direct approach to addressing Food Fraud. They are focusing broadly on all frauds – with a priority on adulterant-substances and counterfeits that lead to health hazards – and moving to the focus on prevention versus detection. The Chinese economic growth has been maintained for so long at such a high rate that their market inherently has many unique and quickly evolving Food Safety and Food Fraud challenges. With a population 4x the USA – and just about the exact same size – there are even more challenges from the density of the population and necessary length of the supply chains.
As with our other collaborations, writing this chapter was a great experience from the standpoint of understanding the science, but more importantly, for getting to know each other better. When we edit a paper back-and-forth in Chinese and English (I don’t read Chinese), we create an opportunity to find where we might not understand each other. The scientific method is to identify a hypothesis and then test it. We applied the scientific method to the underlying concepts and also to our communication efficiency.
Chinese Food Safety focus is on improving the safety and quality of food products in China. The Chinese economic and social growth plans are so immense that their food security (safe, nutritious and continuous supply of food transported a lot farther) challenges are also immense. The 12th and 13th Five-Year plans have focused on economic growth through urbanization from about 40% of the population to 70% and now doubling the annual income of all citizens. Think, about that. Over a five or ten year period half of all – ALL – the people in China will move from the country to cities. I visited Urumqi, a city that doubled from 1 million in 1990 to 2 million in 2008 and then reportedly doubled again to 4 million in 2014. To use US cities as an example, that is growing from Louisville to Pittsburgh to Seattle. Urumqi wouldn’t even crack the top 20 largest cities in China. The scale and coordination of the activities is mind-boggling. With those urbanization plans China is also planning to double the annual income. Granted, the base annual incomes were lower but for 1 billion people this is incredible growth.
These Chinese economic growth plans provide context for understanding the incredible challenges for food, Food Safety, and Food Fraud in China. These all demonstrate the importance of this new book. If you do not read Chinese we will continue to develop bilingual resources. We will also continue to share our insight in our blog and other publications. JWS.
Wu, Yongning; Miao, Hong; Bing, Shao; Jing, Zhang, & Spink, John (2016). Chapter: Food Fraud, in Food Safety in China: Past, Present, and Future, Editors Chen Junshi and Joseph Jwu-shan Jen, Popular Science Press, China Science and Technology Press, Beijing, ISBN: 978-7-5046-7061-8, Code: 787504-670618, URL: www.cspbooks.com.cn
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- Review of FDA Presentation on Food Fraud and Economically Motivated Adulteration – FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Dr. Stephen Ostroff - May 31, 2017