Last month, Dr Lionel Buratti of Nestlé and Ms Xinsia Zhang of Mondelēz International were elected Chairman and Deputy Chair of the FIA Science & Technical Committee (STC). FIA invited them to share their views on the priorities for the Committee and the agenda for the year ahead.

What are your key objectives for STC this year?

Lionel Buratti: The previous Chairman and Deputy Chair of STC have done a fantastic job of driving this Committee’s agenda for the past three years by spearheading the harmonisation agenda in ASEAN and by executing several new projects on food safety and voluntary front of pack nutrition labelling guidelines. This year, the Committee aims to continue its push towards harmonising food standards across ASEAN towards the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015. As part of this drive, we will finalise our gap analysis of the existing nutrition labelling regulations across the ten member states and develop a clear set of frameworks and recommendations for the ASEAN Committees. We hope these framework will act as a baseline standard for the adoption of mutual recognition arrangements (MRAs) as a stepping stone towards eventual harmonisation.

We will also continue to hold industry roundtables across Asia, to discuss the role FIA can play in scaling up food safety capacity building as well as strengthening ties between the various industry groups in the region. We want to work together to develop a clear set of priorities for strengthening supply chains and addressing new threats to food quality, food safety and food fraud. We believe that a fully collaborative approach is the only way to address such challenges in Asia.

Xinsia Zhang: I am particularly excited about the opportunity to accelerate the adoption of voluntary front-of-pack nutrition labelling across Asia. Our Common Guideline and Toolkit was unveiled at the FIA AGM in April and I am confident this Guideline will serve as the number one benchmark for helping consumers to understand the energy content of their favourite food and beverages. We believe this guideline will provide better insights for consumers as well as helping companies adopt a consistent approach across multiple markets and products. In coming months, the STC will work with the FIA Secretariat and the ASEAN Food & Beverage Alliance (AFBA) to conduct a series of roadshows and workshops to promote the guideline.

What are your top priorities under the Food Safety Pillar this year?

Lionel Buratti: The STC is responsible for driving FIA’s input to the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) and I am pleased to co-chair a dedicated regional Taskforce with my colleague from Mars, Dr Roger Bektash. The GFSP was formally launched in December 2012, as a unique initiative by the World Bank. As one of its founding non-profit partners, FIA is committed to supporting the GFSP and building upon its approach of harnessing the strengths of the public, private and knowledge sectors to scale up capacity building in key markets.

Xinsia Zhang: FIA and its members are strong supporters of this global initiative as well as the Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and SSAFE. This year’s priority is to continue to invest strategically in these projects in China and ASEAN. We will also continue our work to enhance capacity-building and training, and promote a risk-based approach to food safety enforcement.

Do you foresee any particular emerging issues affecting the direction of work that the STC takes this year?

Lionel Buratti: Food safety is always a moving target, and we anticipate new threats from food fraud and commercially-motivated adulteration. We aim to improve our capacity in the area of risk assessment and risk communications to effectively manage these emerging risks in partnership with governments and consumers throughout Asia.

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