Late last month, FIA hosted a Roundtable session in Beijing, bringing together China-based regulatory and quality assurance experts to share updates on non-competitive industry initiatives to support China’s food safety programmes. This was the third roundtable session hosted by FIA in China and it provided a pan-Asia platform to facilitate an integrated approach to industry dialogue on food safety.

The Roundtable also aimed to optimise global resources in promoting good regulatory development, food safety and quality assurance in support of China’s 12th five-year plan for Food Safety Improvement.

Discussions about integrated industry action on food safety in China led the conversation, along with updates and presentations from the Consumer Goods Forum Global Food Safety Task Force, the China National Food Industry Association (CNFIA), Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and the China G10 – a group of 15 companies established in the wake of China’s melamine crisis which seeks to drive a standardised approach to supplier audits and capacity building based on the GFSI standards.

The value of the GFSI initiative was reiterated throughout the discussion and members urged FIA to serve as a regional gateway to improving visibility and communications about this and other global programmes. The importance for the private sector to communicate priorities to global, regional and national stakeholders with one voice was also highlighted.

During the meeting, attendees participated in a session to map out current and potential industry activities to identify areas of overlap, gaps and opportunities. The exercise was framed by the priorities set out by the Chinese government in meeting its food safety goals in the next five years. From this session, it was recommended that the industry’s Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Committee (SARAC) group under the CNFIAbe the core competent group to lead industry input on the setting of food standards in China. It was also proposed through the session that the SARAC group act as the primary interface in China to guide industry discussions at the global level through facilitation by FIA.

Executive Director of FIA, Bev Postma, said that the Roundtable achieved consensus on the need for greater alignment between industry-led food safety programmes in China. She also noted that the session highlighted various gaps and opportunities that the private sector can address.

“We see the need for the whole supply chain to come together to discuss a coordinated approach to capacity building and standard setting. This includes manufacturers, retailers and food service companies who are already very active within their respective industry groups. Risk communication is also a major priority for public and private sector leaders in the country. Local groups have voiced support for the establishment of a Chinese Food Information Centre (CFIC), which is to be modelled after the International Food Information Council (IFIC), to improve science-based communication about food safety to consumers,” she said.

“FIA is pleased to offer continued support in the form of co-hosted meetings and access to regional and global dialogue on food safety and we will respond to calls from our members to organise regular roundtables for private sector stakeholders in China to support and enhance connectivity and debate.

“For the next Roundtable meeting, we will take into account the suggestion for the meeting to coincide with the China G10 meeting in June 2013 in order to leverage the presence of key participants,” Ms Postma said, adding that they will also encourage participation from other non-FIA member companies including those who have placed a leading role in existing food safety initiatives such as GFSI.