The Global Food Safety Vision 2016: what needs to happen next?

(Source: MyGFSI.com)

The GFSI Conference is a unique annual event bringing together over 1,000 leading food safety specialists from over 50 countries to advance Food Safety globally. The Conference provides the opportunity to meet and network with industry peers, share knowledge, benefit from thought-provoking presentations from internationally reputed industry experts and hear innovative ideas to implement in your workplace.

The work that the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI*)  is doing on food safety is not only about compliance to regulations and standards, but supports the efforts to feed a growing population that according to estimates will reach 9 Billion people by 2050

“It is not just about what's new in food safety, wherever you are in the world and whatever it is that you do. It’s also about how we learn from the past to drive change for the future (Global Food Safety Conference 2016 – Berlin).

The scope of issues covered during the past GFSI 2016 Conference (with theme ‘Making the Change’) included scientific, operational and technical. Some speakers got right into the detail of global food safety, throwing light onto subjects like genomics technology and the power of Big Data.

Below are some highlights or, rather, takeaways (based on citations of Conference speakers) that could be considered when you are talking about the Food Safety:  

          # Click here to read the full 2016 Executive Summary

PLENARY 1: The Big Picture

#  “This change of thinking works well with food safety because you can't just run it with procedures, you must have it as an integral part of your companyInnovation in technology drives change for food safety” (speaker:  Mr. Koch; Metro AG, Germany).

#  “…in science there is always data variability resulting in uncertainty. We can close this gap with more data but this isn't absolute… A simple appraisal is often preferred to many statements of uncertainty. All this is our paradox because complete safety isn't possible and all we can do is optimize the management of risks” (speaker:  Dr. Hensel;  Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Germany).

#  “The food industry features a series of crises for food safety The food industry can only be a hero or a villain, never a victim…trust is built from empathy, transparency, commitment and expertise…It's only the last, expertise, that is about science. During a crisis, consider the other three components” (speaker:  Dr. Diermeier; Northwestern University, Chicago, USA).

#  “All food is vulnerable to fraud, without exception. We know the causes of fraud and need to be both curious and analytical. Things are changing, with food fingerprinting providing a big step forward” (speaker:  Prof. Elliott, Queen's University, Ireland).

#  “The problem starts when something unknown and unexpected gets into the food system…food safety is not a competitive issue [it needs] data to be open access” (speaker:  Mr. Welser, IBM Research, USA).

#  “Every year, we bring together streams of data on 60 - 70,000 isolates. Every week we investigate 30 - 60 national clusters. That results in 1,500 - 2,000 local investigations annually. We group together cases that are most likely to share” (speaker: Mr. Besser; US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, USA)

#  “The collaborative aspect of genome sequencing is a global effort and we're pulling it all into a public access database and anonymising the data. This is enormously exciting. With big data analysis, we can target our efforts where we can make the most difference” (speaker: Mr. Taylor; Foods and Veterinary Medicine, USA).

 #  “…information on social media can help identify problems. We know the kinds of hashtags that people use… We pass this information on to schools and hospitals. This is thanks to the opportunities of big data analysis, which is creating order and insight where previously there seemed to be just chaos" (speaker: Prof. Poppy; Food Safety Authority, UK).

PLENARY 2: Global Trade Harmonisation

#  “…we are now moving to somewhere new, to provide a strong regulatory foundation based on international standards and best practice… towards a more systematic and evidence-based approach that will allow us to better understand where we can have the most impact (speaker: Mr. Mayers; Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canada)

#  “In the European Commission we've always been committed to the trade agenda because it provides jobs and growth… Is there enough harmonization [with food safety]? (speaker: Mr. Scannell, European Commission, DG SANTE, Belgium).

#  “…harmonization is of fundamental importance and we want importers to be responsible for the relevant supply chain element…Companies that can demonstrate a credible approach to food safety management systems represent less risk” (speaker: Mr. Taylor; Foods and Veterinary Medicine, USA).

PLENARY 3: Crisis Communication

#  “If you haven’t taken the right steps at the very beginning, you are going to struggle. Review decisions and your strategy whenever new information becomes available. Keep a log of everything you do. You’ll need it (that’s the legal advice).Understand your risk threshold. It’s a specialist process, get help” (speaker: Ms. Russell, RED24, UK).

PLENARY 4: Protecting the Consumer in the New Era

#  “We need to ensure that trust, transparency and traceability are in place… The link between health, well-being and food is becoming clearer” (speaker: Ms. Reimer; Ahold, Netherlands).

#  “Trust is multidimensional. Trust is about food safety, integrity and communication. Listen to global conversations to understand your consumers concerns. Transparency means more information, but it's important to be selective” (Mr. Marshall; The CocaCola Company, USA).

PLENARY 5: The Future of Food Safety

#  “Our system can solve the global challenges of growing population, urbanisation, availability of water, food safety and food security…Vertical farming will provide safe food, with no pesticides, microbial problems and simple traceability” (Mr. Korsten; Brightbox, Netherlands).

The program of the past GFSI 2016 Conference addressed many of the areas that will enable the food industry to meet defined challenges in the coming years.

# Click here to read the full 2016 Executive Summary: Making The Change (including Delegates' Testimonials).

The 2017 Global Food Safety Conference will be held February 28 through March 2, 2017 in Houston, Texas. 

* The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is an industry-driven initiative providing thought leadership and guidance on food safety management systems necessary for safety along the supply chain. GFSI is facilitated by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global, parity-based industry network, driven by its members.


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