Collaboration Is Key When It Comes to Ensuring Food Safety

04/10/2020

Dr. Guangtao Zhang

Head of Research, Mars Global Food Safety Center

Scientific collaboration has been the bedrock of our approach at the Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC) since we opened back in 2015. We recognize that the food safety challenges facing us all cannot be addressed by any one entity alone and that a pre-competitive approach –where we all share what we know to help raise the bar in food safety - is critical.

Our vision is a global systems approach, where regulators, academia and food industry partners come together to share relevant data and critical insights to develop the latest scientific capabilities.

As Head of Research at the Mars GFSC, I am proud to lead a team of world-class scientists developing cutting edge technologies and science-led solutions to tackle food integrity (food adulteration and fraud) among other areas of food safety science.

According to Michigan State University (MSU)'s Food Fraud Reference Sheet in 2014, food fraud costs the food and beverage industry an estimated $30 billion to $40 billion per year. The combination of complex food supply chains and inconsistent regulation, has led to a larger focus in food fraud crimes.

High value food and drink, such as Manuka honey, olive oil, basmati rice and whisky, where low quality alternatives can be substituted for the more expensive genuine product, are particularly susceptible to fraud.

Rice field

Food fraud incidents, such as the Chinese melamine milk scandal of 2008 - when criminals adulterated baby milk powder with a contaminant to save production costs and elevate the  perception of ingredient quality - and the horse meat scandal of 2016 has led to a bigger focus on food stakeholders to verify the origins of their products and ensure the integrity of their supply chains.

Over the last few years, the Mars GFSC has collaborated with multiple, high-profile organizations, to establish a first step to creating a regulatory framework and harmonized global standards to tackle food fraud.

In 2017 and 2018, we joined forces to launch ‘The Global Understanding of Food Fraud’, three workshops aimed at raising the bar for food fraud prevention, making it ever more challenging for criminals to deliberately adulterate food.

The workshops, which were held in Quebec City, Beijing and Dubai, brought together a diverse global delegation of food safety experts, scientists, academics and stakeholders, to discuss actions and strategies to overcome present and future food fraud challenges, as well as establish a food fraud framework to support standards under AOAC International.

Food Fraud Conference 2017

Summary of the AOAC-Sponsored Workshop Series related to the Global Understanding of Food Fraud: Mobilization of Resources for Food Authenticity Assurance and Food Fraud Prevention and Mitigation, summarizes the output from the Global Understanding of Food Fraud workshops and sets a starting point for implementing a regulatory framework and harmonized standards.

Our collaborative study found that global collaboration is needed to tackle food fraud. This initiative is a first step towards establishing a global, multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder community to work together to share knowledge, technology, science and methods to prevent food fraud incidents, support the integrity of the global food supply chain, and foster a harmonized framework to support future international standards through the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

The workshops were organized by the Food Risk Analysis and Regulatory Excellence Platform (PARERA) of the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF) and the Department of Food Science of Université Laval, Québec, Canada, in collaboration with Queen’s University’s Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS), Belfast, United Kingdom.

The events received support from several industry partners including major contributions from; The Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC), the EnvironeX Group (Canada); R-Biopharm Inc. (Canada); Danone Food Safety Center (France). The three workshops were supported by the Association of Official Analytical Communities (AOAC International, USA).

This blog originally appeared on LinkedIn, you can connect with Dr. Zhang here