Food safety has become a paramount concern in China following recent crises involving meat and dairy products. These issues highlight the critical importance of a recent agreement between University of California at Davis (UC Davis) and China’s Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University (NFU) in Shaanxi Province. On July 26th, officials from both universities signed an agreement to establish the Sino-US Joint Research Center for Food Safety. Over five years, the agreement will combine Chinese technology and funding with the expertise of UC Davis’ World Food Center in a variety of research areas, particularly dairy safety and food traceability. It is also hoped that with this partnership there will be a greater market for Californian products in China, especially agriculture. UC Davis is located in California’s third congressional district, which exported $171 million worth of goods to China in 2012, and agricultural exports accounted for more than half of the district’s total exports to Asia.
UC Davis was chosen as the partner for this joint research center on food safety thanks in part to the University’s Confucius Institute. As the first Confucius Institute in the world devoted to the study of Chinese food and beverage culture, a partnership with Jiangnan University in China has made Davis “a world leader in food and beverage science and technology.” The institute has even earned the support of Chinese president Xi Jinping, who first connected with UC Davis faculty 20 years ago as a secretary of a municipal committee. UC Davis’ study abroad programs also offer a food focus. This summer, from June 18th through July 17th, students took part in the “A Taste of China” program, where they took a course at Jiangnan University in the School of Food Science and Technology, the premier food science program in China.
Through this new agreement, ties between China and UC Davis will become stronger than ever. The joint research team, made up of members from UC Davis and NFU, will research global food safety-related policies and “develop models for implementation of international food safety standards and risk management.” Furthermore, this agreement and research builds on a solid foundation of cooperation regarding food safety between UC Davis and China. UC Davis’ Western Institute of Food Safety and Security (WIFSS) has a working agreement with Nanjing, China’s Agricultural University that includes the building of a One Health Center by 2019. According to WIFSS director Rob Atwill, the Joint Research Center at NFU will provide a forum from which to discuss ways to mitigate contamination at the source of production, thereby working in tandem with WIFSS’s own project in China.
Sarah Batiuk is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington, DC.