Building Trust and Capacity for Safe Food in Asia

Building trust and capacity to ensure Asian consumers have access to safe food requires a concerted and collaborative approach from multiple stakeholders from the public and private sectors, civil society and inter-governmental organisations – this was the key outcome of a half-day dialogue, organised by the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) in collaboration with Food Industry Asia (FIA), held in Singapore last week.

Senior leaders from the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and FIA members spoke on how, as the world’s food economy expands and international supply chains grow more complex, many countries in Asia are facing critical deficiencies in food safety capacity. There was overall consensus among the participants in the dialogue that there is no silver bullet to overcoming the food safety challenges; however, an important cornerstone is the concept of shared responsibility and collaboration.

 

Partners and stakeholders of the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) - senior leaders across government, intergovernmental and industry sectors - at the Food Industry Asia (FIA) Dialogue Session, held in collaboration with the GFSP, on 9 December

In her welcome address to the attendees, Ms Victoria Kwakwa, Vice President, East Asia & the Pacific, World Bank, said that there was a dual challenge of lowering consumers’ exposure to unsafe food, and also enhancing and building consumer trust that the food they consume is safe. She highlighted that the food safety challenge requires concerted efforts in Asia.


Ms Victoria KwaKwa, Vice President, East Asia & the Pacific, World Bank, gives the welcome address to open the dialogue session.

Food safety is a tremendous challenge at a global scale, said Lystra Antoine, Chief Executive Officer of the GFSP, highlighting that nearly 420,000 people die each year from contaminated food. Ms Antoine said that food safety presented all stakeholders with an opportunity to protect and promote consumer health and food market development, as well as to facilitate trade.

 

Ms Lystra Antoine, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) gives an overview of the state of food safety in Asia.


A lively and engaging panel discussion featuring senior leaders from governments, intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) and industry from across Asia was moderated by Mr Vivek Pathak, Director, East Asia & the Pacific, IFC. Panellists Dr Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, FAO; Mr Paul Mayers, Vice President, Policy and Programs Branch, CFIA; Mr Iain Tate McLaughlin, President, ASEAN, The Coca-Cola Company; Mr Pawan Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer, FSSAI; Mr Shaughan Kennedy, Vice President, R&D (Asia-Pacific, Middle East & North Africa), Mars Chocolate; and Mr Nguyen Khac Hai, Chief Executive Officer, The Pan Group, discussed the challenges and opportunities in ensuring food safety in Asia, the importance of recognising shared responsibility among all stakeholders, and the need to foster partnership.



Mr Vivek Pathak, Director, East Asia & the Pacific, International Finance Corporation (IFC), leads a panel discussion on the threats and opportunities facing the food safety landscape in Asia.


Mr Mayers shared how food safety in Canada has been moving to a regulatory model that promotes compliance and an outcome-based regulatory framework. Ms Kadiresan spoke about some of the work done by the FAO in promoting food safety in the region, while Mr McLaughlin along with other panellists, highlighted how social media, especially how information without facts can now so easily go viral, could be a threat to industry. Mr Agarwal stated that regulators must work together with business, and said that the responsibility of ensuring safe food for 1.3 billion people in India requires shared efforts.


Mr Pawan Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), engages participants in an open dialogue led by Mr Matt Kovac, Executive Director, Food Industry Asia (FIA).


Mr Matt Kovac, Executive Director, FIA, then facilitated a dialogue on the food safety priorities for Asia, highlighting the opportunities for collaboration and partnership, and using the GFSP as a vehicle to address Asia’s food safety priorities. He shared how FIA, since 2010, has successfully united leading food and beverage companies around the three key challenges of food safety, harmonisation and health & nutrition, forming meaningful tri-sector partnerships across Asia.

FIA members representing the food industry in Asia and beyond have recognised that the best way to tackle food safety effectively on a global scale is through multi-sectoral partnerships, in which knowledge can be cascaded freely to those most in need. In particular, FIA has been an active player and is now a partner of the GFSP, convened by the World Bank. Since the creation of the GFSP in 2012 to improve capacity-building and training programmes for food safety practitioners in both the public and private sectors, FIA has worked to ensure that this initiative is well-informed and responsive to the needs of the food and beverage sector in the region.