The Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Food Safety Conference was held February 26 to 28 in Anaheim, Calif. with a record-breaking attendance of over 1,100 attendees from 50 countries. The annual Conference, now in its 13th year and returning to the U.S. after its European event last year in Barcelona, brings together leading specialists to advance food safety globally. It provides the opportunity for attendees to benefit from various “hot” topic sessions and meet and network with industry peers on the exhibit floor.
The thematics of the Conference are defined by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Board of Directors. Here were some highlights of the event.
GFSI Efficacy Study
Attendees were updated on preliminary results from the GFSI Efficacy Study. Conducted by Sealed Air, the global online survey objectively measured the efficacy of the GFSI recognized schemes. The study consisted of 834 respondents from 15,000 manufacturers across 21 countries and 10 languages in Western Europe, North America, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand. A large majority of survey respondents said that the implementation of GFSI recognized schemes has been beneficial for their business and confirmed that they would do it again.
“Certification to a GFSI recognized scheme demonstrates that food safety management systems are more effective, thus delivering greater confidence in the safety of the products which are delivered to the consumer,” said Catherine Francois, global director of Diversey Consulting, part of Sealed Air, France.
Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety for Walmart and vice chair of GFSI commented, “This landmark study provides further evidence of the role credible private food safety efforts can plan in advancing food safety, enhancing regulatory compliance, and promoting a culture of food safety, so that consumers worldwide can live better.”
The latest developments on preventing food fraud, a fairly new issue for GFSI, were discussed. Economically motivated, food fraud can include such activities as substitution, dilution, and counterfeiting. Petra Wissenburg, corporate quality projects director at Danone, Singapore, who has been leading the work of the Food Fraud Think Tank, conveyed that to understand how to control food fraud, you need to think like a criminal. She said it’s about understanding the vulnerabilities to achieve prevention. The work of the Think Tank has delivered a set of requirements on what needs to be done with the aim to have these recommendations integrated into the GFSI recognized food safety management schemes.
Michèle Lees, director collaborative research at Eurofins Analytics, France, also worked in the Food Fraud Think Tank. She proposed that a detection and deterrent strategy doesn’t mean more testing but “SMART” testing. The SMART testing concept stands for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Traceable. Lees said there are two new proposed elements for the GFSI Guidance Document: identification of risk through a vulnerability assessment followed by the creation of a vulnerability control plan to provide mitigation methods.
Jeff Moore, senior scientific liaison, United States Pharmacopeia, went through the work of what USP is doing to help. He explained the factors that could be included in a vulnerability matrix tool. Ingredients can be “characterized by integrity, identity, and purity, thereby excluding what shouldn’t be there.”
Global Food Safety Cultures
In Japan, the number of foodborne illness cases is relatively small compared to that of global perspective. Mika Yokota, director, food industrial corporate affairs office, Food Industry Affairs Bureau at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in Japan, described the Food Communication Project—a collaboration between the government and manufacturers in Japan. This sharing network involving over 1,600 manufacturers helps build understanding between all and is a foundation to further develop the food safety culture, as communication is the key to trust in Japan. She said that the collaboration with the GFSI Japan Local Group has delivered a comparison between the GFSI Global Markets Program for capacity building and its own Food Communication Project. With further development, this Japanese model could provide a connection between local and global engagement.