AU playing role in Chinese food for Olympics

Published: Sep 11, 2007 1:00:00 AM
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Source: AU Report; September 10, 2007

When more than 10,000 athletes and 22,000-plus international journalists converge on Beijing, China, next August for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, an AU faculty member will have played a pivotal role in helping ensure that the foods they are served are safe to eat.

Yifen Wang, an assistant professor in AU's interdisciplinary biosystems engineering program, was one of 15 food-safety authorities named to a Beijing Olympics food security panel in 2005. That international group of experts took on added importance this year amid growing global concerns over repeated recalls of contaminated Chinese food products.

Wang, a Shanghai native who joined the AU faculty in 2004, has focused his research on food safety issues for 15 years. The Beijing Food Safety Administration and the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games sought him as a board member on the basis of his expertise on food safety and his fluency in Chinese and English. Wang is one of four U.S. representatives on the panel and is the board's designated liaison for the English-speaking members. Other members include food safety authorities from China, Australia, the European Union and the World Health Organization.

Since its establishment, the group's main charge has been to write the protocol manual for the rigorous food safety program for the 14-day August 2008 games. The Beijing Organizing Committee announced recently that this program will rely heavily on the use of Global Positioning System and radio-frequency identification technology to monitor and track all Olympic food products through production, processing and distribution. Wang was instrumental in the committee's adoption of the RFID system.

The board has met in Beijing annually since 2005 and will convene for the final time next summer before the Olympics.

Wang, who holds a doctorate in food engineering from Washington State University, said the panel is devoting extensive efforts to develop effective standards. "There is great pressure on us to ensure that all foods that enter the athletes' village, media villages, main press center and international broadcasting center at the games are safe," he said.

He added, "We are confident that the security program that has been established is a very good, highly effective system."