Challenges and Opportunities for Food Safety in Modern Food Systems

Food safety challenges in modern-day China are unique and high on the policy agenda, said Gu Zhenhua, former Deputy Director of the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during the 2016 Food Industry Asia (FIA) China Food Safety Roundtable on 4 November in Shanghai, China.

Senior leaders from the Shanghai FDA, China Food Information Centre (CFIC), Waters Corporation, Université Laval, the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) spoke on the challenges and opportunities around food safety in modern food systems. Issues related to food safety and strategies for improvement of these standards within China, as well as on a global scale, were shared among the attendees.

Wei Mingfeng, Deputy Director, China Food Information Centre (CFIC), shares about the current state, revamp and future direction of China’s food safety standards with roundtable participants.

Touching on the current status, challenges and strategies for improvement of the food safety standards system in China, Gu said that “unique” food safety challenges include environmental contaminants in food due to pollution; consumers’ perceptions of food safety that are influenced by, and drive, social media amplification; and the proliferation of online food sales that leads to the need for clear regulations.


Gu Zhenhua, former Deputy Director, Shanghai Food and Drug Administration (FDA), speaks about food safety challenges in China and strategies for improvement.

Food safety is a top priority for the Chinese government, who view it as a public security, livelihood, economic and political issue; it easily attracts a great amount of media attention; and it has to meet high expectations from consumers, who have “zero tolerance” for food that is unsafe, Gu said.   

Paul Young, Senior Director of Government Affairs, Waters Corporation, speaks on the role of the private sector in building capacity to strengthen supply chains.

The private sector, too, has an important part to play in ensuring safe food systems, said Paul Young, Senior Director of Government Affairs at Waters Corporation. Food safety is a shared responsibility across multiple sectors, he said, and so public-private partnerships (PPPs) are necessary, in order to adequately address challenges and mobilise resources.

Robust and trusted food safety systems can open market access, Young said, adding that appropriately validated laboratory procedures in control labs can minimise risks associated with false non-compliant findings, and effective capacity-building needs to be marked by scalability and sustainability.

UNIDO supports capacity-building for food suppliers, with added attention to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), through programmes and PPPs in China and the region, said Ali Badarneh, UNIDO’s Industrial Development Officer.

Within this scheme, SMEs are able to achieve compliance with legal and market requirements. Increasing the capacity for food safety of local players, Badarneh said, creates a more sustainable business model for the local sourcing of raw materials.

Ali Badarneh, Industrial Development Officer, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), discusses the importance of scaling up food safety capacity-building for food enterprises.

An example of such a PPP is the Global Food Safety Partnership, which was represented at the roundtable by GFSP Chief Executive Officer Lystra Antoine. Last year, FIA signalled its commitment to help scale up food safety capacity-building in China and the ASEAN region, with the signing of an agreement with the World Bank for the GFSP, and making an initial contribution of US$150,000.

Lystra Antoine, Chief Executive Officer, Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP), shares about the work of the GFSP as a collaboration to enhance food safety.

Strong collaborations are important in identifying the best solutions and consensus, said Samuel Godefroy, Full Professor, Food Risk Analysis and Regulatory Systems, Department of Food Science, Université Laval, during the roundtable. International standards setting bodies, such as the Codex Alimentarius, enable countries and regions to leverage resources globally; and leadership from governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector is critical in speeding up the process.


Samuel Godefroy, Full Professor, Food Risk Analysis and Regulatory Systems, Department of Food Science, Université Laval, discusses options for future directions in the development of international food safety standards.

Concerning local and international trends and predictions for food safety development, speakers said that lab testing is becoming increasingly important. Capacity-building is needed in this region, and must go beyond testing methodologies, to cover method validation and lab proficiencies.

​Jiang YiFan ​is the Regional Regulatory Affairs Assistant Manager at Food Industry Asia (FIA).