Food Safety has become a progressively complex issue, and the rapidly changing landscape in Asia has presented a strong need for measured, multi-stakeholder conversations on this topic. This has brought into focus the huge value and importance of public-private partnerships. The food industry has been successful in stepping up to counter complex and unique food safety challenges by developing sophisticated surveillance tools and by working collaboratively across the supply chain with various groups. A brilliant example of such a collaboration is the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP). The GFSP was formally launched in December 2012, as a unique initiative by the World Bank.

Emerging food safety threats are becoming increasingly complex, particularly in terms of the intentional adulteration of food for economic gain. At the recent FIA AGM in Singapore, Dr Petra Wissenburg, Corporate Projects Quality Director, Danone, outlined the threat that food fraud poses for the industry and explained some of the proactive and collaborative initiatives to address the issue. Through concealment, mislabelling, grey market production, unapproved enhancements, counterfeiting, dilution and substitution, the supply chain is coming under a new type of threat that is tied to organised crime. The impact of food fraud cannot be understated. For businesses, it means a loss of consumer trust, lost sales and the need to allocate considerable resources in crisis management.

At the recent Asia Food Safety and Product Quality Forum: Building the Future Food Chain, organised by GS1 in Hong Kong, Keynote speaker Prof. Alan O’Reilly from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland suggested there are insufficient standards in place to tackle the emerging threat of food fraud. Leading global food safety experts present at the meeting agreed with the need to step up government and industry surveillance to detect these new threats, which are growing in sophistication and complexity.

Food fraud exemplifies the difficulty in adapting to the changing landscape of food safety, but it is just one key issue. As supply chains become increasingly global, the road ahead will be populated by new challenges with increasing complexity. However, the food industry has made huge strides in predicting and countering these threats and we are seeing increasing awareness across the supply chain for the importance of food safety and quality. This is coupled with investment in new and more accurate detection/tracing technologies such as whole genome sequencing, and a new emphasis on private-public collaboration at national, regional and international levels.

The food industry is a crucial partner in defending food safety and ensuring the introduction of processes that offer the optimum level of protection for consumers. The industry is increasingly demonstrating that it is well-placed to be a key driver in the improvement of standards. Thus far it has reacted well to the constant stream of new threats by proactively developing sophisticated surveillance tools and working collaboratively across the supply chain.

As new threats continue to emerge in China, the food industry is working together and sharing expertise at events such as the Global Food Safety Forum’s (GFSF) annual summit, which will take place in Beijing on 14th-15th June. China’s regulatory system has seen a number of changes in Food Safety since 2003. What has emerged, is an architecture for national food safety regulation that consolidates jurisdictions at the national level while increasing the role of local bodies at the provincial level for implementation and enforcement. The combination of top-down and bottom-up strategies is still a work in progress, however, food safety is at the forefront of political concerns. The focus of the summit and its various themes include dedicated dialogue on opportunities for improvements in regulation, regulatory uncertainties, bottom-up regulations, supply chain technologies, building a successful safety & quality management strategy and the impact of new regulations on food safety and agricultural products. Global leaders in food safety will attend to present in their areas of expertise and discuss the ways forward.

Meanwhile, at the international level, FIA will continue to channel knowledge and expertise into the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP), facilitated by the World Bank. The goal of this visionary public-private partnership is to scale up knowledge-transfer and training on food safety throughout the supply chain. GFSP recently launched a five-year roadmap which provides a framework to support the partnerships through pilot initiatives to build capacity, with a particular focus on SMEs in developing economies. As one of its founding non-profit partners, FIA is committed to supporting the GFSP by harnessing the strengths of the public, private and knowledge sectors to scale up capacity building in key markets.

The ultimate objective is to better equip not only government and industry actors, but also consumers in dealing with the ever-threatening challenges of food safety.

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