Auburn has part in Olympic safety

Published: Aug 4, 2008 1:00:00 AM
Media Contact: Brittany Whitley,

Source: Opelika Auburn News

Food safety technology for the Summer Olympic Games is more advanced than ever.

The Chinese government is using GPS, tags that record both time and food temperature and cameras to ensure the safety of more than 7 million athletes, family VIPs, media, sponsors and spectators for the Games, which begin Friday in Beijing.

"It's kind of exciting," Yifen Wang, assistant professor of biosystems engineering at Auburn. "The use of this technology is after my suggestion."

Wang is part of the Experts of Beijing Olympic Food Safety Expert Committee, a 13-member consortium that advises the Beijing Food Administration Office for the Games.

Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is being used to monitor all food. The tag, which records temperature and time, is about the size of a credit card, but thinner.

An active tag can provide continuous data on a food's temperature. In addition, GPS sensors are placed in the cabs of food-carrying vehicles, Wang said.

"The driver can't control it," he said.

Cameras are also used along roadways and in kitchens.

"Check stops have cameras," Wang said. This is to prevent tampering.

China will also provide Food Safety Mobile Laboratories that travel and test food products during the Games.

"It is the first time for the Olympic Games. This technology is pretty much new," Wang said.

Jonathan Gordon, retired deputy chief of the Atlanta Police Department and deputy commander overseeing operations for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, said security has become more of an issue since Sept. 11, 2001.

"The world has changed a lot from 1996," he said.

But still, he said, the best way to prepare is to consult those who have been through it. That is why Gordon is also part of the 13-member team.

"It's a legacy of sharing," he said.

In 1996, trucks were passed over a series of sensors to check for security issues.

"Each truck had to be checked to see if it was carrying anything under it," he said. "Nothing just floated in and out of the venue."

Gordon has traveled with Wang to China several times.

"I'm impressed by the seriousness that the Chinese have to provide a safe environment," he said.

Jean Weese, professor and coordinator of food safety programs at Auburn University, said sabotage is one threat to athletes.

"Someone might want to make another team sick ... It has been tried before," she said.

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