AU professor helps ensure food safety at Summer Olympics

Published: Jul 30, 2008 1:00:00 AM
Media Contact: Brittany Whitley,

Source: Opelika/Auburn News

Dr. Yifen Wang, assistant professor of biosystems engineering at Auburn University, said helping to insure the food safety for more than seven million athletes, team officials, family VIPs, technical officials, sponsors, media persons, staff, volunteers and spectators for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing is a scary task — to put it mildly.

Wang is part of the Experts of Beijing Olympic Food Safety Expert Committee, a 13-member consortium that advises the Beijing Food Administration Office, which is in charge of all the food served before, during and after the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

"It's kind of like a mission impossible to me," he said. Tracking and keeping the food safe is made easier by a system, called Radio Frequency Identification, that Wang suggested Beijing use.

Food is fitted with a sensor that inventories the food and records the food's temperature and time.

The tag can tell if the food gets above the recommended temperature and for how long, he said.

"It is the first time for the Olympic games — this technology is pretty much new," he said.

Officials in Beijing have also outfitted vehicles with Global Positioning Systems and roadway checkpoints will be monitored by cameras, he said.

Food-born pathogens and food purity are two major threats for Beijing.

Drugs given to animals could cause athletes to fail drug tests, he said. Also, the hot summer is peak time for the spread of pathogens.

Jean Weese, professor and extension specialist at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and coordinator of the Food Safety Programs at AU, agreed.

"They (diseases) are the same ones as we (the U.S.) have, E. coli 0157: H7 , salmonella, Listeria..." she said. "The Olympic Team is very good at doing this all over the world..."

Video of story - WCOV FOX News in Montgomery, AL

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