Partnership at the centre of food safety initiatives in China

The enactment of China’s new food safety law has been welcomed by all sectors, with the hope that the new law can rebuild people’s trust in Chinese-made food.

A month after the new law took effect, around 400 food safety specialists from China and other countries gathered in Beijing for the fourth annual GFSI Focus Day in China. The delegates, including representatives from Food Industry Asia (FIA), discussed ways to leverage the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) in meeting the challenges of food safety operations throughout China.

The event was highlighted by the announcements of three major public-private partnerships that highlight GFSI’s commitment to enhancing food safety in China.

A new agreement was signed between GFSI and the Chinese government—through the Certification and Accreditation Administration of China (CNCA) —to accelerate food safety development. This is part of GFSI’s commitment to leadership in driving food safety on the global, regional and local stage.

The agreement pioneers a new assessment approach and aims to improve the general level of food safety in China. Called Technical Equivalence, this category of assessment is dedicated to government-owned schemes. It allows for the acknowledgement of a scheme’s equivalence against the relevant technical requirements of the GFSI Guidance Document. It is distinguished from GFSI recognition of commercial schemes, which also assesses the scheme’s governance and operational management components.

Speaking about the signing of this new agreement, Cenk Gurol, GFSI Board Chair, said “GFSI attaches great importance to meeting the needs of a changing market place. To this end, GFSI is building on successful long-standing public-private collaboration to accelerate advancement in cooperation with the Chinese government. We believe that this new technical category of equivalence will open up opportunities and solutions beyond the current realm of private schemes.”

Meanwhile, as food safety is a global issue which needs to be addressed locally, GFSI and the China Nutrition and Health Food Association (CNHFA) are collaborating to provide continuous improvement in food safety management systems. The agreements in this partnership include translating GFSI’s global mission into concrete cooperation plans for local implementation.

Under this partnership, GFSI and the CNHFA agree to set up a network for sharing knowledge, resources and best practices on food safety between companies and authorities. It also includes capacity building and education on food safety. The parties aim to establish self-disciplinary mechanisms, to introduce best-practices methods for food safety management with HACCP and to unify food safety requirements between food purchasers and manufacturers through the development of standards of GFSI.

“Food safety is a complex global issue which cannot be effectively addressed in silos,” said Véronique Discours-Buhot, GFSI Director at The Consumer Goods Forum. “Collaboration between the private sector and governments is critical to achieving lasting change throughout the improvement, implementation and remediation processes. This public-private partnership supports the GFSI vision of ‘Safe food for consumers everywhere’ and focuses on translating this global vision into a local reality for China.”

Finally, GFSI announced that it had made a joint declaration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to collaborate on a far-reaching initiative for food safety capacity building in China and at a global level. Within this new partnership, GFSI and UNIDO will join forces in establishing a public-private platform focusing on identified priority countries such as China. They will advocate for food safety as a shared responsibility and improve understanding of the importance of effective engagement of the industry in advancing food safety globally.

The Focus Day in China, held on 3 November, 2015, provided a venue for sharing of experiences and case studies among those who are just getting started in food safety management, all the way to world-renown experts and company heads. Focus Days are one-day events that provide a unique opportunity for delegates to gain better understanding of food safety advancement. GFSI rolls out its global mission locally through the conduct of regional focus days. As a key link in the global food safety chain, China is of critical importance where the work of GFSI and its partner organisations, including FIA, is now more relevant, given the current regulatory changes.

FIA recently announced its commitment to scale up food safety capacity building in China and the ASEAN region, by signing an agreement with the World Bank for the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP). FIA has supported a number of food safety capacity-building initiatives in ASEAN and China, and is highlighting the urgent need to scale up these investments by working with partners like UNIDO, the GFSP, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and GFSI to accelerate training.