Global Food Safety Conference Highlights ‘Shared Responsibility’

‘Shared risk and shared responsibility’ was the focus of the 2014 Global Food Safety Conference in Anaheim, California, held late last month.

The conference, hosted by the Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), brought together over 1100 leading food safety specialists from over 50 countries to explore how collaboration and transparency can strengthen the safety of the global food supply chain.

Speaking at the opening session, Yves Rey, Corporate Quality General Manager, Danone, France and Outgoing Chair of the Global Food Safety Initiative, highlighted that food safety is a fundamental requirement for public health, national economies and for social stability. He added that it is “only by working together that it can be achieved”.

New technology, systems and processes have driven huge developments in the safety of the food supply chain; however, food borne diseases are still responsible for around 1.8 million deaths, every year.

FIA Executive Director Bev Postma, who attended the conference, said that in today’s globalised world, the food supply chain is becoming an increasingly complex network interdependent on many businesses, stakeholders, and individuals.

“There was acknowledgement from all parties that we need to take collective responsibility for food safety, and strive for greater transparency and communication across the supply chain,” she said.

Collaboration from farm to fork underpinned many sessions at the three day conference, with participants reviewing how current systems have transformed food safety over the last 50 years, and where potential improvements can be made.

The wide-spread adoption of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) – a systematic preventive approach to food safety – was highlighted as instrumental in helping to develop international food safety standards.

Sara Mortimore, Vice President, Product Safety, Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs, Land O’Lakes participated in the ‘Re-thinking HACCP…’ session, and commented that while HACCP has been very successful in driving the adoption of a global framework, there are challenges with ‘poorly implemented systems’ that do not anticipate failure. Robert L Buchanan, Director and Professor, Centre for Food Safety and Security Systems, University of Maryland, highlighted that HACCP needs to continue to evolve in order to continue strengthening the safety of the global supply chain, and adapt to rapid developments in food production, manufacture and transport.

In addition to preventative measures and risk mitigation strategies, the importance of sharing best practice in the production, manufacture and sale of food was also a key focus of discussion during the conference.

Speaking at the Global Supply Chain Best Practices session, Senior Director of Global Quality Programmes at Mondelēz, Peter Begg highlighted that the company’s focus on food safety and quality best practice extends well beyond its own supply chain.

The company works closely with its suppliers in ensuring food safety, and has requested that all 3,000 of its raw material suppliers work towards a GFSI recognised food safety management scheme by 2015, underlining the importance of maintaining globally recognised standards.

The conference emphasised that alongside these critical food safety standards and processes, establishing a culture of food safety, trust and transparency is essential in ensuring their success, and building consumer confidence in food products.

Mika Yokota, Director of Japan’s Food Industrial Corporate Affairs Office at the Food Industry Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, explained the significance of the Food Communication Project (FCP) in relation to building a culture of food safety in the country. She said the programme, which involves over 1,600 manufacturers, is essential in helping to build understanding and communication across the supply chain. It has allowed the industry to see where there are gaps in the safety of the food supply chain, and work together to address them.

Part of building a culture of food safety is developing and maintaining consumer trust in food products. In today’s hyper-connected world, information on food safety and quality is available at the touch of a button, and appearing on consumers’ mobile phones and computers through their social media networks. The conference highlighted that effective communication is based on transparency, relevance, clarity, credibility and accuracy.

Ms Postma said: “This conference is an important platform for discussion, debate and knowledge transfer. Forums such as this one have an important role to play in establishing stronger multi-stakeholder partnerships and networks which ultimately strengthen the safety of the global food supply chain.”

Launched in 2000, the GFSI is a business-driven initiative for the continuous improvement of food safety management systems to ensure confidence in the delivery of safe food to consumers worldwide. GFSI provides a platform for collaboration between some of the world's leading food safety experts from retailer, manufacturer and food service companies, and service providers associated with the food supply chain, international organisations, academia and government.

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