Twelve hundred food industry delegates from 52 countries gathered to discuss issues and trends in food safety at the annual Global Food Safety Conference in Tokyo, Japan, from March 5 to 8.
“The GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) Global Food Safety Conference is a unique opportunity to understand industry trends, listen and interact with experts about progress on matters, showcase our solutions, and network with customers and peers,” says Josephine Arrighi de Casanova, global marketing manager, Diversey Consulting, Paris, France, who attended the conference. “We are dedicated to making the food industry safer, more proactive, and more innovative, which can only be achieved by collaborating and engaging with the entire international community at each stage of the food supply chain: governments, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, service providers, and the food industry from farm to fork.”
This year’s focus was on how and why public-private partnerships should work together toward the same goal of safe food for consumers everywhere. “We’ve already seen great progress in this area, which is fantastic because together we can achieve much more,” says Anita Scholte op Reimer, head of quality assurance and sustainability, GFSI, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Mike Robach, chairman of the GFSI board and vice president, Corporate Food Safety, Quality and Regulatory Affairs, Cargill, says, “This year’s conference marked a turning point for strengthening relationships between governments and the private sector. Ten years ago this would have been almost unthinkable, but the support we’re seeing around the world now is signaling a big, positive change.”
Advances in food safety were also highlighted. Whole genome sequencing, which uses microorganisms’ DNA sequence to more easily and quickly detect the source of a foodborne outbreak, is helpful in preventing people from getting ill. Blockchain technology, the technology behind Bitcoin, can help to make the food supply chain more transparent and traceable.
Arrighi de Casanova cites multiple reasons for the need to further improve food safety. The World Health Organization still reports more than 200 diseases spread through food, and one in 10 people experience the
unpleasant effects of a foodborne illness every year. “Food safety outbreaks continue to occur and be widely reported in the media, which deeply undermines the public’s confidence,” she says. “Fines, share price drops, brand equity loss, and even personal liability and prosecution are just a few other consequences of food safety issues.”
The conference also aimed to provide practical steps for food manufacturers to become better equipped and aware of what to do in order to ensure safe food production, an area that smaller companies and startups in particular may struggle with.
Also discussed was another innovation, cultured meat, a new way to produce meat and poultry by growing it from cells in a factory, rather than slaughtering an animal. “This novel method could be used to ensure that there is enough food in the world and could solve animal welfare challenges,” Scholte op Reimer says. “But first, investigations need to continue to prove that it is a safe method.”
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