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Organizers take a zero risk approach to food safety with strict monitoring

EXPO organizers have adopted a strict food safety regime for meals served on site, including mandatory farm to supplier traceability and certification of transport and storage, to ensure products are risk free, Zhang Qian reports.

Cartons of organically labelled vegetables are on their way from Star Farm in Songjiang District to the warehouse of Metro retail chain.

And once everything gets its final check, they will be transferred to the Expo sites. The labels will provide detailed information on food production and ensure safety.

The World Expo 2010 is not only a galaxy of arts, performances and architectural design, but also delicious cuisines as well. About 85 percent of the 70 million visitors are expected to eat inside the Expo zone.

There are more than 130 restaurants, a traditional Chinese food street and food sections inside pavilions where many countries are offering visitors their traditional cuisines. All of this puts a lot of focus on food safety.

"The six-month event puts a lot of pressure on local food safety issues, as the event runs from May to October, the hottest and wettest weather in Shanghai. It will have a big number of visitors and offers different styles of food, which may have hidden risks," says Gu Zhenhua, director of Shanghai Food and Drug Administration's food supervision department.

Food supervision procedures were taken repeatedly during the trial operations in late April before the World Expo officially kicked off last Saturday.

Metro Cash & Carry, City Shop and NGS Supermarket have been appointed as three recommended suppliers for restaurants.

Metro will supply vegetables and meat products to caterers and some European pavilions; NGS supermarkets will offer supplementary materials like raw foods and seasonings; City Shop will be responsible for providing imported food to the foreign pavilions.

In addition, Shanghai Jiangqiao Wholesale Market has been chosen by the Shanghai government as one of the recommended vegetable suppliers for restaurants at the Expo.

The Jiangqiao Wholesale Market has so far picked about 40 farms growing 170 varieties of vegetable nationwide to supply the Expo. Big market share, local government support and cooperation with other farms were important criteria when choosing the farms, so as to help ensure food safety, says Linda Qian, an official of Shanghai Jiangqiao Wholesale Market.

The Organic Farm Company, one of the major organic products suppliers for Metro, has organic farms in more than 10 cities throughout China. The widely scattered farms can help support the best production of various products in different seasons, says Zhang Ming, Organic Farm's general manager. Its Shanghai farm is in suburban Songjiang District and will be mainly responsible for the supply of green vegetables.

To ensure the highest quality of organic food, the company has set strict standards, including using only non-genetically modified seeds, using cattle instead of tractors, spreading only organic fertilizer and killing pesticide in non-chemical ways.

Zhang says that farming organically is much more difficult than the ordinary methods, but the effort is worthwhile as it can help guarantee the best products.

All appropriately certified food will be packed in designated containers, transported in specific vehicles, and put in approved storage, says Steve Gan from NGS Supermarket.

The food will be despatched to a central kitchen outside the Expo site and carted into it by specific Expo vehicles.

Apart from regular strict supervision on food safety, including testing and certification, the traceable links from food producers, farmers and fishermen were important in companies winning Expo supply contracts.

Star Farm's Traceability System guarantees provision of detailed information in all parts of the chain, from raw food to serving customers, says Kevin Chen, corporate communication manager of Metro.

And NGS Supermarket has always required detailed records of all processes, including production, processing, packaging and logistics. And this time, all factory laboratory paperwork is required, together with all other certificates, according to Gan.

"The traceability system can help make it possible to check on the whole supply chain back to the source in case any problem occurs. That can help identify the causes and liable parties and take appropriate action," says Chen.

Advanced technology like radio-frequency labels, instant bacteria testing machines and a real-time monitoring system will also be adopted, as local food authorities announced months ago.

"A better control of overall food safety and proper preparation for the World Expo are our current top tasks," says Xie Minqiang, deputy director of Shanghai Food and Drug Administration.


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