Since the official establishment of the EHEDG Regional Section in China in 2015, EHEDG volunteers have supported the Chinese food industry in various ways. By exchanging knowledge and by establishing new networking connections in the colourful Chinese food industry sector, with Chinese universities and the Chinese government, these volunteers raise awareness for the benefits of hygienic engineering and design. How did they approach their mission and how are they doing so far?
In this article, Monica Chen (ACO Drainage Technology Shanghai and Secretary of EHEDG Regional Section in China) and Hui Zhang (Hygiene Expert of a multinational company of FMCG and Chair of the EHEDG Working Group Cleaning and Validation) share their views on hygienic engineering and design awareness in their country of birth, where processes tend to unfold slightly differently than in other parts of the world.
Are the Chinese interested in what EHEDG has to offer?
Monica Chen: “They certainly are. China’s food industry is modernising at its fastest pace ever, using more technology to scale up and meet higher standards, and our EHEDG training courses, conferences and seminars are very popular in China. Nevertheless, it took us quite some time to start things up. The first steps towards the acquaintanceship between China and the European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group were taken in 2013, when ACO Industrial opened an office in Shanghai and started gathering professionals while building a local network of food industry stakeholders. One of the strategic aims was to introduce young professionals and Chinese students to western food safety and hygienic design knowledge.”
The food safety regulations in China are complex. How do you find your way around them?
Hui Zhang: “There are many government departments that oversee and enforce the policies in China, including ten national government departments like the Ministry of Health, the State Food and Drug Administration, the Ministry of Agriculture, the China Institute of Food Science and Technology, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the National Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety. In addition to these legislating bodies there are also many local and regional food safety agencies active in China. For outsiders, it sometimes seems that there’s no clear formal hierarchy structure between these agencies on the local and national levels, but processes tend to unfold differently in China than in other parts of the world, and you just have to find the right approach to reach your goals. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and the State Council also regulate food safety issues. The Food Hygiene Law of 1995, passed by the NPC, amended the 1982 Food Hygiene Law and still regulates most aspects of food safety.”
How did you approach your goals?
Monica Chen: “After two years, we had established connections with Shanghai Ocean University via the Dean of the School of Foods Science and Technology (SHOU) Wong Wang Chi Xi Chang, who is very committed to convey an hygienic engineering and design mindset to the university students. In 2016, the first group of students of SHOU followed an EHEDG training and after that, more universities and university teachers joined the program, like Jiangnan University in Wuxi. Our strategy is to raise the awareness for hygienic engineering and design from the bottom up, starting with the new generation of professionals that enters the Chinese food industry. In order to introduce EHEDG guidelines and training courses we also wanted to establish an EHEDG Regional Section, but no non-governmental organisation is allowed to be active in China without the approval of the Chinese government. In order to obtain that approval, we first had to find a Chinese organisation that would be willing to accredit our EHEDG Regional Section in China. Eventually, we found a valuable partner, the Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology (CIFST), which is playing a leading role in the Food Industry in China. In 2015, Mrs. Meng Suhe, President of CIFST visited the EHEDG Foundation Board in Frankfurt to sign the Regional Bylaws between EHEDG and CIFST.”
What will 2019 bring?
Hui Zhang: “We hope of course that the importance of hygienic Engineering and Design for food safety and sustainable economic development will be acknowledged by the legislative organisations in China, because as soon as that happens, things may unfold very quickly. In the meantime, EHEDG China will continue to organise EHEDG training, conferences, seminars and help food factories to innovate.” Monica Chen: “Since the Chinese food industry consists of many different and mostly small sized companies, it’s quite a challenge to find key audiences to maximise the impact of EHEDG. This year we will focus on reaching more students, teachers and the big Chinese food producers to establish a firm base for the future development and integration of hygienic engineering and design expertise in China.”