Building International Collaboration Mechanisms to Focus on Global Food Safety

CNHFA 2021

In honor of the 2021 World Consumer Rights Day on March 15, the China Nutrition and Health Food Association (CNHFA), a key trade association affiliated to the China State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), launched a national campaign in partnership with China media to help improve food safety, build consumers’ confidence in the food industry and facilitate the Healthy China Initiatives by sharing industrial best practices and examples.

The Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC) was proudly featured by the CNHFA as a role model to improve food safety through collaborative research globally through partnerships. We are pleased to share the article here. Many thanks to CNHFA’s authorization.

As a leading global food and pet product manufacturer, Mars has always been relatively low-key, however there is one topic where Mars is quite “high-key” - food safety research.

Rice is a staple food for many people. The taste of rice from different regions is different, and many of them have formed their own brand premium such as China Northeast Rice and Thai Fragrant Rice, which can make them particularly susceptible to fraud by adulteration. Dr Hong Peng, a Senior Research Manager at the Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC) in Beijing, China, is focusing on food integrity research to reduce food contamination and ensure food authenticity. Her team helped establish the Rice Authenticity Consortium in partnership with collaborators such as the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast (IGFS-QUB), and Agilent Technologies.

The elemental composition of plants can be affected by soil characteristics and agricultural practices, enabling the use of analytical chemistry techniques to identify geographical origins. The Mars GFSC investigated the differentiation of geographical indication (GI) of popular rice varieties around China. Rice samples were collected from different regions and analyzed using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). This is a powerful analytical tool which can quantitatively determine concentrations of metal and non-metal elements present within the sample. By identifying the key elemental markers, they can create a unique ‘fingerprint’ for each variety of rice which is difficult to replicate, and the subsequent rice samples can then be analyzed and compared to known compositions in order to verify the origins of the sample.

The ICP-MS method is the Mars GFSC’s first non-targeted fingerprinting method, a capability which can be applied to other key commodities in the global supply chain for authenticity verification (i.e. Basmati rice) or to other challenges such as heavy metal contamination (e.g. Arsenic in rice). As different countries face very different food fraud challenges, tailored solutions conducted at the local level in China, India, Vietnam, and Ghana adapted this fingerprinting toolkit to meet the needs of each specific national challenge. Once fully validated these techniques could be applied in any part of the world where rice is sourced.

“We know we cannot tackle the global problem of rice adulteration alone. This rice authenticity consortium demonstrated the value of global collaboration, and we need to work together to tackle these issues. Through this consortium, we have collectively created a set of analytical solutions that can be tailored for different regions and raw materials,” said Dr. Hong Peng: “we are constantly working to broaden the toolkit available for food authentication and to inform practical measures designed to help meet the global food fraud challenges.. Our purpose is to help ensure safe food for all, and to achieve a better world tomorrow through how we do business today”.

CNHFA Comment:

The global standard of food safety is a product of the globalization of food trade. From a global basis, food safety is an important issue in both developed and developing countries. Chinese government has been always taking high attention to food safety, transforming the multilateral collaboration mechanisms for food safety, as well as facilitating food safety cooperation and idea exchange. It is important to leverage the advantages of food industry, explore new approach of food safety governance and new collaboration opportunities, build fair and well-managed business environment, and continue to meet the new expectation to food safety. The nutrition and health industry should produce healthier food by building global collaboration mechanisms actively and focusing on food safety and food safety research.

CNHFA 2021