A Long Way from Beijing

An immediate outcome of the Centre’s visit to China in April was the arrangement for food scientist Dr Lishui Chen to spend a year at NZFSSRC in Palmerston North. Lishui arrived in July. His travel is funded by the NZ China Food Protection Network, and salary paid by his employer COFCO, China’s largest food processor, manufacturer and marketer. He works for their Nutrition Health Research Institute in Beijing.

Lishui’s rather daunting task is to update a comprehensive report on the food safety and security landscape in China and NZ. He will compare food regulations, particularly those relating to dairy and meat products. His roadmap of such a large and unfamiliar system, and his recommendations for NZ exporters, will be invaluable.

Lishui is helping Dr Adrian Cookson of AgResearch Ltd, a principal contributor to the Centre, organise a workshop on antimicrobial resistance, at China Agricultural University, in Beijing this November.

His research interests include functional foods and macrobiotics, in addition to food safety. His PhD from Harbin Institute of Technology was on probiotics, which are a multi-billion dollar market in China. Lishui will be talking to scientists in NZ from the Riddet Institute and other Institutes during his stay. COFCO has up to the minute facilities to test new functional foods and consumer response to them. Lishui’s R&D work has included functional foods for older people, dietary supplements for pregnant women*, and raw milk derivatives. Ultimately, mass market response to new foods is measured from sales through the COFCO company’s 7 shopping malls, called Joy City.

Chinese diets have been changing very rapidly. Instant noodles, western foods and take-away chains, have become the norm in the big cities. However, there is considerable regional variation. In Lishui’s home province of Hunan in central southern China, “hot and spicy” sums it up. Chillies of every description open the pores and help you cool down in the humid summers.

Lishui is enjoying the change to the cool, fresh climate and landscape of less populous Manawatu. He even gets the weekends off.

*On 18 October, it was announced that a study funded by Fonterra and the Health Research Council, conducted by Auckland and Otago Universities, showed that a probiotic derived from fermented dairy product (Lactobacillus rhamnousus HN001), taken during pregnancy, can prevent postnatal depression.