Business / Companies

Tackling food hygiene and misconceptions

By Xu Junqian (China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-26 07:56

Tackling the issue of food safety standards in China has been an interesting endeavor for the Sealed Air division in China.

On one hand, Chinese consumers are well-known for raiding supermarkets for imported food items such as baby formulas. On the other hand, these very same consumers believe that meats in local markets, left out in the open for hours and exposed to the elements, are fresher and safer than those that come packaged in clean, airtight bags.

"The perception of 'safe and fresh' for different types of food appears to be very varied in China," said Karl Deily, president of Sealed Air's food care division.

Nonetheless, he is relishing the task to change perceptions, saying that the double standards are "both the challenge and fun of operating in China".

Headquartered in North Carolina in the United States, Sealed Air is often referred to as the inventors of the Bubble Wrap, the famous packaging material that protects its contents with a layer of air.

In 2013, Sealed Air initiated a "China Pork" project with the aim of revolutionizing the nation's pork supply chain. According to the project findings, massive amounts of pork are wasted in China, the world's largest consumer of the meat, before it reaches the tables of the country's 1.4 billion population.

Furthermore, as revealed in a report released by China Meat Association in September, the quality of a majority of the pork produced in China is "laggard"-produced and processed in small scale, or by individual farms, poorly packaged and with an incomplete cold chain.

"In China, one of the issues that some of the markets are dealing with is that they haven't completely modernized the whole food chain. Like the animal market, they are still dealing with things like supply chain, refrigeration, distribution, whereas in other markets progressive changes have happened, allowing food processors to focus better," said Deily.

"As the industry continues to develop and the need for food grows, and with the world population expected to go from 7 billion to 9 billion in 2050, we need to improve the shelf life and quality of the things we consume, or we'll end up having to produce 70 percent more food for everyone," he said.

All these factors helped the company decide that they would focus their efforts on improving the distribution and packaging of pork to reduce wastage and improve hygiene. As it turned out, this focus also aided Sealed Air in arresting declining profits amid the economic slowdown in China.

One of the things that Deily and his team can use to their advantage when trying to convince consumers that packaged meat is safer is the new food safety regulations which had taken effect in October.

Also, the company's innovative packaging, which extends the shelf life of pork and prevents cross-contamination, falls perfectly in line with China's ongoing urbanization plans.

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