A Bioassay-Based Approach to Food Safety In China

A Bioassay-Based Approach to Food Safety In China
Anthony Sinskey, Professor, Department of Biology
Stacy Springs, Director of the Center for Biomedical Innovation, Engineering Systems Division
Vishal Vaidya, Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School

Period of performance: 

September 2015 to August 2017
solutions, food, water, sustainability


China has experienced an unprecedented increase in average wealth since 1980 that has resulted in a commensurate rise in the demand for safe and healthy foods, particularly meat. However, weak regulatory effectiveness among other factors, has resulted in a series of severe episodes of intentional, economically-motivated adulteration.

Our analysis of the supply chain and farming practices suggests that meat is a uniquely risky product because of the misuse and overuse of veterinary drugs in farming, including Chinese traditional medicines.

In this proposal we set forth a series of experiments directed toward establishing proactive approaches to food quality control. In the first, we set forth a series of absorption and toxicity screens of a network of compounds based on known poultry farming practices. In the second, we propose the development of a robust bioassay for toxicity in chicken based around a currently active unsolved adulteration in chicken.

We believe this work could serve as the basis for holistic regulatory decisions that account for the polypharmacy that is frequently used in farming. Further, we believe that this approach could fundamentally transform approaches to unknown toxicant identification by measuring the biological effects of tainted foods rather than testing for one or a few likely toxicants at a time.