Food safety and testing in Asia-Pacific

Food testing is a fundamental assessment for all food manufacturers to ensure the safety of their food products and ultimately, the health of consumers. Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have tightened their food safety regulations, as Roongtiva Thongsupsin, area division leader, 3M food safety department, Asia and Greater China areas, writes more.

In an increasingly globalised world, ensuring a safe and steady support of food between countries is more difficult than ever, From farm to fork, food goes through multiple steps of processing and transportation, each step a potential opportunity for produce to be contaminated if not handled properly.

This year’s unprecedented global COVID-19 pandemic complicated things further by disrupting food supply chains, sparking off fears that the virus could spread through food. According to a McKinsey report released this April, across all categories, Asian consumers are overwhelmingly favouring local food brands to international ones.

Most recently in June, China halted all European imports of salmon after reports surfaced that they were possibly linked to a COVID-19 outbreak at a Beijing market. To alley fears, food regulators had to assure consumers that the virus could not be transmitted through food and food packaging.

Still, food lapses and misconduct are regrettably common in Asia.

In 2018, five Vietnamese were arrested on the suspicion that they were using battery chemicals to dye waste coffee beans and passing off the mixtures as black pepper. In the same year, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) reported that around 68.7% of milk and milk products sold in the country were not up to standards, and had been adulterated with substances such as caustic soda, glucose, white paint and refined oil.

Even in countries like Singapore, widely known for its stringent practices, cases of food contamination and negligence have emerged. Last year, the Singapore Food Agency suspended a catering company’s licence after multiple hygiene lapses were found on their premises, including sightings of roaches and rats, improper thawing of meat, dirty work surfaces and cross-contamination.

Such cases are not to be taken lightly.

Contaminated food can lead to permanent disability or even cost lives in the most serve cases. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, foodborne illnesses affect more than 275 million people in Asia-Pacific, and cause some 225,000 deaths annually.  

Continue reading the full article in the latest Food & Beverage Asia Aug/Sep 2020 issue here.