This year’s Global Food Safety Forum (GFSF) Annual Summit was special in many respects, not the least of which was the site itself. The Yanqi Lake Convention and Exhibition Center is the official APEC convention site, underscoring a central theme of the Summit—the integral link between food safety and international trade. In addition, the scale of the Center was ideal for accommodating record attendance levels.
This year’s presenters were recognised experts from the private and public sectors and brought new perspectives on critical issues covering regulatory developments, technology advances, compliance concerns, and problems and prospects.
Government officials were forthright about the compliance obstacles and foreseeable remedies. The Chairman of Tootoo Organic Farm, a leading domestic e-platform and distributor for organic products, stressed the growing demand of Chinese consumers for quality, safe produce and processed foods. The Chairman of LeLaoGen, on the other hand, addressed the importance of sustainable agriculture to a dependable food safety system. The President of TUV, China, a global testing, certification, inspection and food safety training provider, offered new information on standards and harmonisation initiatives.
The Vice Chairman of China Agricultural Technology Extension Association outlined new food safety technologies introduced by leading members and stressed the importance of these technologies to the reliability of the supply chain. The SCIEX, a global leader in mass spectrometers, unveiled new advances in lab verification technologies. The CCO of ICS, Australia outlined the workings of MIS software systems for integrated tracking of the food safety footprint farm to fork. Another industry presenter discussed the use of blockchain in certifying food safety product in China. And the President of BRIC Global Agricultural Consultants, an official host of the Summit, discussed the growth, food safety benefits and opportunities for e-produce sales in China.
The World Bank representative discussed the Global Food Safety Program (GFSP) initiatives in China and its focus on incubator activities targeting medium-size enterprises. The presenter from the US Food and Drug Administration outlined new regulatory procedures for the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program. Representatives from the China provincial regulatory agency discussed new enforcement procedures of the amended China Food Safety Law.
The panel discussions fleshed out many of the issues in the presentations of the first day. Moderators also drew attention to the commercial consequences of food safety threats such as cargo rejections at international ports and dilution of asset value in brands undermined by flawed inspection and verification.
After the second day hosted by Tootoo, a GFSF member delegation visited cooperative farms, wineries, an integrated large-scale swine production and slaughtering facility and e-platforms in Yang Tai. They also had an opportunity to meet with 30 business representatives in a frank and open discussion of local food safety issues.
The fifth anniversary GFSF Summit offered participants the opportunity to openly discuss their priorities and particular issues of concern. Regulators and policy-makers also hosted a unique series of site visits which enabled delegation members to move from a ‘top-down’ discussion of the broad macro set of food safety issues to operating systems and concerns at the production, processing and distribution levels in a productive agricultural region of the country.
There were many take-aways from the series of events. The conclusions drew a picture of salutary accomplishments and potential future threats which highlight the importance of GFSF as a private-public platform for information-sharing and the joint development of new risk mitigation strategies for domestic and international supply chains. Clearly, there is a lot to be watchful for in the year ahead. We at GFSF will be offering in the year ahead our e-food safety courses delivered in Chinese in collaboration with the University of Maryland/ JIFSAN (Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition), continuing our partnership with the World Bank’s GFSP and promoting food safety liability insurance for members and non-members.
See you at next year’s Summit.
Rick Gilmore is Chairman of the Global Food Safety Forum (GFSF), a not-for-profit organization, founded and managed worldwide by GIC Group, with a diverse but interrelated industry membership: producers, processors, merchandisers/ shippers/distributors, and retailers. GFSF/China is jointly managed by the GIC Group and its partner, BRIC Global Agricultural Consultants, with offices in Washington, DC, and Beijing.