Chinese consumers are wary of food brands that originate in China, for good reason. In 2004, 141 companies were found to have produced fake baby formula. Four years later, the problem was even worse: six babies died and 294,000 were made sick by baby formula tainted with melamine.
Of those, 51,900 required hospitalization. In 2013, 16,000 pig carcasses were found in tributaries of the Huangpu river. A quick internet search brings up scores of other food safety disasters in the country. The public has taken notice, though, and officials are revving up food safety regulations and hopefully, the country’s reputation.
The recently announced China Food Safety Initiative (CFSI) addresses top food safety issues by harnessing the power of 40 local and global companies operating in China and their 100-plus representatives who have committed to dedicating their time on a volunteer basis to participate in the CFSI’s work streams, according to a news release from the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). Representatives from Chinese companies New Hope Liuhe, Beijing Hualian, China Resources Vanguard Co., Ltd and COFCO met with personnel from Cargill, Danone, Walmart, Carrefour, McDonalds, Aeon, Metro, Hershey and others to discuss priorities for food safety. T
hey all agree with the conviction that everyone has a right to safe food and believe food safety in a “non-competitive issue which requires collaboration to achieve,” said the release.
“Going forward, CFSI is in an ideal position to have a great impact on both Chinese and global markets,” Zaotian Wan, GFSI board member, said. He also serves as CFSI co-chair and is vice president of COFCO Corporation, China.“Improving food safety and consumer trust in complex global supply chains requires a ‘glocal’ (global/local) approach and this parity-based collaboration with Chinese and international companies on the ground within the Chinese context is a must for tackling local challenges.”
A food safety “Focus Day” program for the member companies provided guideposts for the path forward. They pledged continuous improvement in food safety standards, audits and capability building to ultimately enable mutual recognition within the industry and improve consumer trust.