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-- When more than 10,000 athletes and 22,000-plus international
journalists converge on Beijing, China, in August for the 2008 Summer Olympic
Games, an Auburn University biosystems engineering
assistant professor will have played a pivotal role in helping ensure that
the foods they are served are safe.
Auburn’s Yifen Wang is one of 15 food safety authorities on the
Beijing Olympic Food Safety Expert Committee. This international group has
been working since 2005 in establishing safety standards and setting up
systems for food testing and monitoring, including a mobile laboratory.
“A huge amount of food will be served during 60 days, starting prior to the
opening of the Olympic Village through the Olympic Games,” said Wang. “In
addition, the Olympics will be held in summertime, a peak period for the
outbreak of food borne illness,” Wang said
The volume of food being prepared for the Olympic Village and for the
concessions includes 330 tons of fruits and vegetables, 130 tons of meat, 82
tons of seafood, 21 tons of cheese and 19 tons of eggs.
Wang, who traveled to Beijing
twice to meet with the committee, says global positioning systems and radio-frequency
identification technology are being used to monitor and track all Olympic
food products through the production, processing and distribution processes.
Wang was instrumental in the committee’s adoption of the radio-frequency
identification system in 2005.
“There is great pressure on us to ensure that all foods that enter the
athletes’ village, media villages, main press center and international
broadcasting center at the games are safe,” he said. “We are confident that
the security program that has been established is a very good, highly
Wang, a Shanghai, China,
native who joined the Auburn faculty in
2004, has focused his research on food safety issues for 15 years. The
Beijing Municipal Food Safety Committee and the Beijing Organizing Committee
for the 2008 Olympic Games sought him out as a board member based on his area
of expertise and his fluency in Chinese and English. He is one of four U.S.
representatives on the panel and is the board’s designated liaison for the
The organizing committee invited Wang to the Olympics’ opening ceremony, but
he plans to watch it and the games from his home in Auburn.
“I am honored to serve on the food safety committee, but it would have been
very difficult and expensive to take my family because of the number of
people attending,” he said. “We are happy to watch it here together.”
Wang earned a bachelor’s degree in food engineering from Shanghai Fisheries
University in 1990 and worked as a
food scientist in China and
as a fisheries processing plant director in Senegal. He came to the U.S. in 1998 and five years later earned his
master’s degree in environmental engineering from the University
of Washington and a doctorate in
food engineering and a master’s in business administration, both from Washington State University.
(Written by Jamie Creamer and Charles Martin.)