Auburn Professor Keeps Digital Eye on China's Olympic Food Supply

Published: Aug 4, 2008 1:00:00 AM
Media Contact: Jen Hale,

Source: WTVM-TV News

One of China's biggest challenges for the upcoming Olympic Games will be making sure there's enough safe food for millions of visitors.

It's a big job, especially during the hot summer months when airborne illnesses are at their peak.  China has been working on it for years---with the help of an Auburn University professor.

Thousands of little computerized tracking labels will help to ensure China's Olympic food supply is safe.

The labels cost about 100 dollars each. The GPS technology inside allows food safety officials to know where food bound for the Olympics is at all times.

The clock and thermometer alert officials to any temperature change that's more than 5 degrees.

"How to ensure every food is safe - It's a very, very difficult thing," says Dr. Yifen Wang, of Auburn University's Department of Biosystems Engineering.

Wang is on the international committee that started devising the half-million dollar tracking system in 2005.

China will need to get enough food for more than 7 million athletes, spectators and journalists. They'll be pulling it in from all over the country.

In the past, China has come under fire for contaminated food exports, so Wang wanted to make sure all of the quality control data was readable anytime via computer using radio frequencies.

"There are 700-million farmers in China. It's very hard to control the quality," explains Wang.

Wang was born in Shanghai and came to the US in 1998.

He says Chinese food safety officials have drastically stepped up standards.

They're tracking the Olympic food supply from each individual farm through the processing plants into the Olympic Village.  Mobile testing labs will be in place at the village to double check for any problems. Wang thinks the system will work.

"Yes, yes I think so" says Wang.

China will need 82 tons of seafood, 130 tons of meat, 19 tons of eggs and 330 tons of fruits and vegetables to feed everyone attending the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The US Olympic Team plans to bring its own groceries to Beijing for the games...mainly 25-thousand pounds of lean protein. US athletes will eat in their own training center, avoiding much of the local food at the Athletes Village.

Similar stories also ran in these media outlets: