Building trust in China’s food

15 November 2015

In the past it was enough to produce affordable food. In the future, only those companies that earn the trust of consumers will survive.

During the past 30 years, China’s food industry has undergone incredible growth. Production of crops has tripled, annual pork production has grown by 350%, poultry meat output has increased more than tenfold and dairy production is now 30 times larger than it was in 1980.

Nutrition in China has improved tremendously, but regulatory enforcement, management capability, traceability and quality assurance have not kept pace with the food industry’s growth and rapid changes. At the same time, consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the safety and quality of the food they feed to their families.

An array of risks has emerged due to the widespread availability of cheap chemical additives, pesticides and antibiotics, as well as the introduction of intensive livestock farming and industrial food processing. The most common risks are caused by a lack of knowledge and training around new farming and production techniques, as well as economically-motivated illegal practices such as food fraud or the misuse of growth promoters.

In 2008 thousands of people were left sick and several died after consuming melamine, an industrial chemical that was added to milk in order to mask dilution. Testing has revealed cases of excessive antibiotics and pesticide residues in food, as well as the use of illegal feed additives that accelerate livestock growth. Recently, authorities intercepted 40-year-old frozen meat in a crackdown on smugglers.

The Chinese government is actively addressing these risks by supporting modernisation, enhancing regulatory enforcement, and enacting its most rigorous food safety law ever.

Amongst all of these developments, we launched our Food Supply and Integrity Services business and PwC China entered into a strategic alliance with New Zealand’s AsureQuality, a world leader in food safety and biosecurity services. We’re finding innovative ways to help corporations address their food safety risks.

We’re helping dairy processors by developing standard operating procedures for the farmers who supply their milk, conducting risk analysis on their production and processing chains, and up-skilling their people on food safety management. We’re working with a large restaurant chain to identify risks and adopt food safety best practices in preparation for raising capital and expanding their business. We’re helping a tea processor to better manage quality among its suppliers. In the area of private equity we’re performing food safety due diligence on food sector investments and incorporating international practices into their growth plans.

In this rapidly evolving market, providing safe and quality food to more than 1.3 billion people presents both challenges and opportunities. In the past it was enough to produce affordable food. In the future, only those companies that earn the trust of consumers will survive.



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