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Global Food Safety Conference Wrap-Up

Over 600 food safety experts and industry leaders from 40 countries convened in Washington, DC last week for the Global Food Safety Conference.  The three day event, sponsored by the Consumer Goods Forum, discussed the future of assuring food safety in the globalizing food supply chain, and emphasized the role the Global Food Safety Initiative can play in harmonizing food safety schemes.

“Consumers want to be able to trust the products they buy,” said Food Marketing Institute (FMI) CEO and president Leslie Sarasin in her welcoming remarks.  Sarasin emphasized the need for collaboration and connectivity in international food safety efforts to meet U.S. consumer demand, which currently includes an increasing portion of imported foods. “It’s stretched our food safety system thin,” noted Sarasin.

Connectivity was a prevailing theme at the event–the official theme was ‘Connecting the Pieces’–Jean-Mark Saubade, Managing Director of the Consumer Goods Forum addressed the conference by calling industry leaders, policy makers, doctors, professors, consumers, trade associations, lobbyists, and others to work together in order to make food safer for consumers all across the world.

In collaboration with Saubade and Sarasin, Pamela Bailey, President and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association trade association also spoke about the importance of working together to ensure safe food. 

Though insiders from Washington may consider Sarasin and Bailey competing forces for grocery store trade association membership, both women stressed the importance of working together for the survival of the industry and consumers.  The three presenters touched on the importance of safety and inspection along each step of the food process and how creating a forum for open dialog between industries, like the GFSC, will hopefully lead to new ideas and advanced technologies to help the food industry.

Speakers came from a wide array of backgrounds, and addressed a broad spectrum of issues, ranging from public-private collaboration to optimizing in-store hygiene to managing food recalls. Speaker JP Suarez, senior vice president and general counsel to Wal-Mart Stores gave his presentation just before New York University Professor Marion Nestle, an accomplished author and expert in food politics.  Both offered a very different perspective on the state of the international food safety system.

Nestle was highly critical of the mass-production and centralization of food and safety hazards in the current system, while Saurez focused on the need to harmonize and converge food safety standards. “Food safety should not be a competitive advantage,” said Saurez before the conference.

As the conference progressed, participants attended various symposia and break-out talks where they either listened to lecturers or worked in small groups to brainstorm food safety-related ideas.  Smaller policy breakfasts and dinner events were also held in order to facilitate one-one-one interaction and to provide networking opportunities.

Current Food Safety Czar, and recently promoted Deputy Commissioner of Foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Michael Taylor wrapped up the conference–which ended a day early due to the impending blizzard–with the closing keynote address. Taylor emphasized the need for government and industry cooperation. “We don’t make food, we can’t make it safe,” said Taylor. “I really do believe we’re all in this together.”

The next Global Summit, another food safety conference also hosted by the Consumer Goods Forum will be held in London this June 22-25.

© Food Safety News
  • hhamil

    Michelle, thanks for a quick description of an event for those who support taking the industrial food system to the next level–globalization–in which the hard earned wisdom of growers and ranchers will mean even less. And this is despite the fact that globalization leads to greater hunger, higher environmental costs, lower quality food, more food safety problems and will be brought to a screeching halt by disappearing oil supplies.
    And what did JP Suarez, Senior VP and General Counsel of Wal-Mart want? To harmonize and converge food safety standards because “food safety should not be a competitive advantage.” He’s right, in a globalized food system, it won’t be because those of us who grow the healthiest food in America–local food for local people–will kept small by the foolishness of self-styled “food safety” legislation like S 510. Then, all food, except possibly what is grown in private gardens, will be forced to meet the same ineffective standards.
    You wrote, “over 600 food safety experts and industry leaders from 40 countries.” How many actually grow food?
    What a sad state we have come to in this country when we allow “experts” to tell us not only what is “safe” food but also how we are required to make it “safe.”
    What we need is healthy food not “safe” food.

  • Harry Hamil

    Michelle, thanks for a quick description of an event for those who support taking the industrial food system to the next level–globalization–in which the hard earned wisdom of growers and ranchers will mean even less. And this is despite the fact that globalization leads to greater hunger, higher environmental costs, lower quality food, more food safety problems and will be brought to a screeching halt by disappearing oil supplies.
    And what did JP Suarez, Senior VP and General Counsel of Wal-Mart want? To harmonize and converge food safety standards because “food safety should not be a competitive advantage.” He’s right, in a globalized food system, it won’t be because those of us who grow the healthiest food in America–local food for local people–will kept small by the foolishness of self-styled “food safety” legislation like S 510. Then, all food, except possibly what is grown in private gardens, will be forced to meet the same ineffective standards.
    You wrote, “over 600 food safety experts and industry leaders from 40 countries.” How many actually grow food?
    What a sad state we have come to in this country when we allow “experts” to tell us not only what is “safe” food but also how we are required to make it “safe.”
    What we need is healthy food not “safe” food.

  • María Alejandra Quijada Tijerina, MBA/Food Engineer

    Dear Sir or Madame:
    Really I´m agree with all above and all efforts to Harmonize The International Food Safety .
    I´m feel so satisfy regarding to the remarkable role of Global Food Safety Initiative now and in the future will play. Congratulations!!!!
    Food Safety all over the world is “Non negociable requirement” to offer always to the consumers. Finally, sooner or later all we are consumers & our families.
    “We are, that we eat…” . It´s much better “eating- “kitchen” than pills-medicines”, but the “foods-kitchen” must be “safety & healthy anytime”…always is our part & mission, values as professional & experts that we are.
    Harmonizing Process has started in Food Schemes, but we have to be forward, using the connectivity we´ll do to much, as you conclude “connecting the pieces”…finally wholly agree “Make food Safer for consumers all across the world is not only for been competitive Food Sector, that o.k., in fact “is a right in a globalize Food System, that requires must be farther than “created interest” in order to focus to the benefit to all over the world for our own benefit and next generations. It´s our life & quality of future life & ours families, that is playing in all this huge efforts.
    Kind regards,
    Atte.
    María Alejandra Quijada Tijerina
    Lead Assessor
    Acting on Behalf of LRQA Inc.
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