Pinduoduo enters research collaboration with Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation to develop a cost-effective test for contaminants like pesticides.
The problem is compounded by the complexity of the global food supply chain, and requires a group effort from farmers to suppliers to regulators and consumers to tackle the issue, said Benjamin Smith, director of the Innovations in Food & Chemical Safety Programme (IFCS) at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore.
"Where it becomes more challenging now is that in the past, it used to be, you'd get your vegetables from the local market, and you knew where it was coming from," Smith said in an episode of the Agri Matters podcast hosted by Xin Yi Lim, Executive Director of Sustainability and Agricultural Impact at Pinduoduo, a leading online agricultural marketplace in China.
"Nowadays, where the produce is being sent from one country to the next…there're so many different points of contact along the food chain where this sort of adulteration or food fraud can take place," said Smith, who is also part of the recently formed Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI). "If we're not working together, we're not going to achieve the goal.
Pinduoduo entered a research collaboration with SIFBI earlier this year to develop a more cost-effective and robust method of testing fresh produce for pesticides. The online marketplace hopes to provide its more than 600 million consumers with greater quality assurance with more widespread testing by making testing more economical and convenient.
The project will focus on developing a cheaper and quicker test that can detect both specific and a mix of pesticides and be deployed at various points of the supply chain.
Conducting more tests across a wider array of produce becomes more feasible with lower costs of testing, said Lim of Pinduoduo. It also strengthens enforcement and helps stamp out bad actors over time, making the food system more secure and safe, she said.
"Today's consumer is not just looking for fresh and affordable produce, they also want to know what they're consuming is safe," said Lim. "If we can bring down the cost and time taken for testing produce for contaminants, we can meaningfully increase the coverage and frequency of testing such that consuming safe and healthy food is something accessible to all."