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Delivering an Effective, Resilient and Sustainable EU-China Food Safety Partnership

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EU-China-Safe (Delivering an Effective, Resilient and Sustainable EU-China Food Safety Partnership)

Reporting period: 2019-03-01 to 2020-08-31

The project is developing and implementing a shared vision of best practice within the EU and China that will enhance food safety, deter food fraud, restore consumer trust, deliver mutual recognition of data and standards and support the flow of agri-food trade between the two trading blocks to promote economic growth.
The specific on going objectives of EU-China-Safe include:
a) Defining a shared framework for harmonisation and visualisation of data that will enable convergence of standards and practices.
b) Improving transparency in management of the food chain through developing a digitised DNA system and innovative traceability tools.
c) Developing, in collaboration, new/improved food authenticity surveillance systems.
d) Developing, in collaboration, improved food safety systems and practices.
e) Building confidence in EU-China trade by improved understanding of consumer practices and regulatory frameworks, the latter by developing and demonstrating mutual recognition of laboratory standards and results.
f) Enhancing EU-China co-operation and knowledge exchange through a series of joint initiatives on training and dissemination, in the area of assuring the integrity of exported and imported food.
These objectives are bringing about improvements in consumer confidence and safety and facilitate sustainable growth in trade between the EU and China.
The EU-China-Safe project is delivering a series of important measures that will act as enablers to help to align and harmonise the activities of the EU and Chinese regulatory authorities, in order to substantially strengthen the integrity of the food supply system and thus facilitate international trade. EU-China-Safe is adopting a multidisciplinary approach that involves key actors and stakeholders within Europe and China and covers a wide range of scientific, social and industrial fields. EU-China-Safe partners work together effectively and coherently by carefully integrating the EU and Chinese partners across all activities, in each task, and across the entire management structure, in a true partnership. EU-China-Safe comprises actors from public and private organisations, who are working together to deliver a convergence of standards and practices between the EU and China, contribute to the development of international legislation, combat food fraud, and make food safer. A wide range of technical, societal and economic assessments are being carried out, and a number of feasibility studies being developed to support equivalency of results. Through twinning of EU and Chinese reference laboratories, as well as establishing the EU-China (virtual) Reference Laboratory 2020 (RL2020) EU-China-Safe is able to identify, implement and showcase best practice.
Food transparency and traceability - aimed at the exploration of various traceability techniques and technologies of several different products moving between Europe and China, developed through two approaches: (a) DNA-based traceability and blockchain technology to provide provable provenance of the pork products and combined it with DNA sampling technology which will verify the parentage of the final product. (b) Detection of inconsistencies in recorded claims by undertaking value chain mapping and analysis towards establishing the veracity of the claims for traceability systems. The project was able to demonstrate effective enhancements for supply chain management and security.
Food authenticity, deals with knowledge transfer and implementation of innovative methods to combat food fraud. The fraud detection methods were transferred from the EU to China and vice versa. It concerned particularly detection methods for wine, dairy products, processed meats, organic fruits and vegetables, and spices. State-of-the-art methods developed in either the EU or China, are transferred to the other partner organisations, and performance is compared. The partners have completed the implementation of state-of-the-art laboratory-based confirmatory methods and novel, portable on-site screening methods.
Food safety, aims at licensing, regulations, and innovative testing methods that might impact international trade. This work progressed through (a) A method for the analysis of chlorate residues in milk products was established in EU and transferred to China. (b) Methodology was established in EU for the analysis of the bound residues of eight banned nitrofurans, which includes four new compounds. (c) An analytical test method has been developed for the analysis of antiviral drug residues in poultry muscle. (d) The development of a multianalyte enzyme inhibition screening method for pesticide residues is underway. The possibility of an emergent contaminant in meat due to the COVID-19 crisis was investigated.
Building confidence and facilitating trade, aims at identifying communication needs, expectations, perceived barriers, and facilitators to building trust and confidence, and on consumer views. Work on the analysis of food trade impediments between the EU and China has identified two commodities of interest (peanuts and infant formula milk) and plans are underway to engage with key industry and government stakeholders. Methods for file transfer and storage for the establishment of the virtual lab RL2020 are being established. Work on case studies to examine the economic impact of food incidents is underway, and planning for scenarios to use for future exercises is being finalised.
The project is laying the cornerstone of an EU-China food safety control system integrating food control management, food legislation, food inspection, food control laboratories, and food safety and quality information, education and communication. By innovating in each of these five domains, the project is developing a unique EU-China Joint Laboratory Network and will implement feasibility studies allowing EU-China mutual recognition to be achieved. These studies determine how method harmonisation and data transfer can take place to lay the foundations for future large-scale integration. EU-China-Safe will deliver the environment for high level regulatory and scientific contacts and the means of developing trust between all stakeholders in food supply systems. EU-China-Safe is built on a multi-actor partnership, composed of stakeholders involved at every level of the food supply chain. EU-China-Safe brings together major research actors, reference laboratories, regulators, small technology enterprises and large food companies and assured significant consumer participation. Policy makers and food business operators will also be consulted through the use of a Stakeholder Advisory Board and an Industry Implementation Group. The focus of the project is not on developing short term solutions but to build a powerful network of food chain actors that will help build on the project outcomes to ensure a lasting and sustainable impact. As stated, the consortium is bringing together, in a partnership, key actors in Europe and China involved in food safety. The co-design of the project, extensive bilateral communication, regular meetings and dialogue is helping to build trust and understanding and to develop a common EU-China vision in this area. Twinning activities will enable substantial transfer of knowledge that will be further exploited by other organisations and stakeholder platforms and through the Industry Implementation Group formed in the project.