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2015 GFSI Global Food Safety Conference Recap
Ecolab recently sponsored the GFSI Global Food Safety Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In this Q&A, Dr. Ruth Petran, Vice President of Food Safety and Public Health at Ecolab, discusses her key takeaways.

March 23, 2015
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Ecolab recently sponsored the GFSI Global Food Safety Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In this Q&A, Dr. Ruth Petran, Vice President of Food Safety and Public Health at Ecolab, discusses her key takeaways.

What was the best part about this year’s conference?

As stated in a recent article published in Food Safety Magazine, the best part about this year’s conference was experiencing all the energy, enthusiasm and passion for food safety among attendees. The theme of achieving food safety through shared responsibility was truly evident throughout the week as attendees from across the supply chain collaborated on important issues such as food fraud, standards and managing food safety risk. Safe food is expected around the world, but can only be achieved through this kind of collaborative work. It was exciting to see true engagement and commitment from all parties at the conference, including government, academia, international organizations and retail, manufacturing and foodservice companies.

The theme of shared responsibility also was highlighted during the Ecolab-sponsored Food Safety Discovery Bus Tour as attendees saw Malaysian food safety management behind the scenes and experienced best practices in action.

What were some of the top food safety challenges discussed at the Global Food Safety Conference this year, and what progress has been made on those challenges?

One of the top challenges was how to address emerging, nontraditional food safety issues such as food fraud. Food fraud – the intentional adulteration of food for economic gain – is an increasingly growing concern among food manufacturers and retailers due to multiple well-documented cases in recent years. Conference attendees discussed the need to more effectively leverage available data on food fraud and develop a strategic response.

As a result, GFSI will be issuing new guidance this year on how to address food fraud risks. The guidance will include conducting a vulnerability assessment and developing a mitigation plan. With the 7th edition of the Global Food Safety Initiative Guidance Document due out in 2016, all GFSI schemes will require facilities to identify and mitigate food fraud risks.

Another top challenge discussed at the conference was how to ensure credible audit results. To address this issue, GFSI will be continuing its work to improve auditor competency, encourage stronger engagement from buying companies, and include unannounced audits as a requirement within the 7th edition of its guidance document.

Attendees also discussed the need to improve company cultures so that food safety is a way of daily life from the top down, rather than a forced compliance effort. We can expect GFSI-recognized schemes to address this important issue in the near future.

Ecolab food safety experts Tom Ford, Vice President of Global Retail Services, and Dr. Tatiana Lorca, Senior Manager of Food Safety Education and Training for Food and Beverage, discussed these and other food safety challenges in GFSI technical working groups before and during the conference.

What are some food safety initiatives in the works that people are excited about?

Many attendees are excited about the GFSI Global Markets Programme because it has successfully improved food safety at smaller supplier companies and is helping them grow. Many smaller suppliers have seen significant sales growth as a result of being involved in the program. Initiatives like the Global Markets Programme are essential for improving food safety across the supply chain, and the enthusiasm for this program also points to the altruistic spirit among GFSI members to help smaller businesses improve their food safety systems.

In addition, the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is developing an economic community that is committed to improving free trade among their member nations. These nations are major food producers, so attendees are excited to see their progress on improving food safety practices. Their efforts will surely shape the focus of the global food industry.  

Attendees also are excited about China’s progress on food safety. Dr. Zhinong Yan, Food Safety Director for Asia-Pacific at Ecolab, co-presented an educational session with Ms. Jiang Hong, National Quality Manager for China Resources Vanguard, an Ecolab customer and large supermarket chain in China. They discussed the many factors impacting food safety in China, and Ms. Hong also explained Vanguard’s sophisticated food safety management system. View the full presentation.

As the world’s largest food producer, China’s food safety standards and practices are critical for the global food supply chain. Attendees are pleased about the progress China is making to develop practical food safety standards for a variety of foods and enhance its focus on science-based risk management.

What was your top takeaway from the conference?

There is an increasing emphasis on the fact that food safety must be a shared responsibility across the supply chain. So, one of my top takeaways was the importance of this shared responsibility. We’re seeing much collaboration between growers and processors, government entities and other partners to develop innovative and sustainable food safety programs. As a company that works in close partnership with our customers on issues like food safety, we believe strongly in the power of collaboration. It is exciting to see so many different stakeholders working together to achieve significant gains in improving food safety around the world.

For more information about GFSI, please visit www.mygfsi.com.

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