This weekend marked the launch of the Global Food Safety Fund, a partnership of public and private organizations intended to boost food safety systems around the world.  

Three organizations – the Waters Corporation, Mars Incorporated and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) together pledged 1 million dollars as seed money for the Fund, which will provide food safety resources to governments and companies with the goal of increasing the security of the global food supply and facilitating trade.

Their contribution was announced Saturday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

The Fund was established in collaboration with the World Bank, which will be in charge of managing its assets.

The initiative will help to establish training programs for anyone involved in the food safety process – from growers to producers to public health officials, to testing facilities.

“The idea was to put together a fund that would help local organizations build the food safety capacity that’s needed locally,” explained Waters’ Corp.’s Vice President Rohit Khanna, “including testing capabilities but also educational knowledge capabilities.”

He says the partnership is unique in incorporating expertise and funding from both government and the private sector.

“Traditionally, governments have tried to do them themselves or companies have tried to do this because of brand protection, but now you’ve got government agencies organizations like the World Bank and private organizations like Mars Corporation and Waters to say let’s address this as a group,” said Rohit in an interview with Food Safety News. “And that’s the only way we’re really gonna get there.”

While the Fund eventually hopes to be able to impact food economies worldwide, it will pilot its programs in APEC member countries, which together produce approximately 50 percent of the world’s food supply. 

“The best way to look at this is as a kick-off,” Rohit told Food Safety News. “The next couple of years will give us an opportunity to pilot this in the APEC region and see how we want to expand upon that.” 

The project hopes to focus especially on developing nations, Rohit says. 

In order to achieve their objectives, member organizations hope that other groups will join them in their efforts, and that they will be able to raise 15-20 million dollars over the next 10 years. 

“We believe that the proposed Global Food Safety trust fund has enormous potential to advance collaboration on this important global issue, and we are looking forward to this shared endeavor,” said Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Managing Director of the World Bank. “We are pleased that the World Bank can provide support through knowledge sharing because – as we well know – a food safety crisis that originates in one region or country can so rapidly become a crisis in others.”

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, the United State’s top trade ambassador, praised the announcement, calling it a “ground-breaking approach to strengthening global food supply chains.”

“The creation of a Global Food Safety Fund will help prevent food safety incidents, protect public health, and lead to greater confidence in trade, thereby creating a more prosperous region,” said Ambassador Kirk.  “I expect that this powerful collaboration among food safety officials, industry experts, academics and other stakeholders can have an enduring impact on food trade, as well as on public health and food security, and I encourage continued efforts by these stakeholders to mobilize additional resources towards these goals. “

Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Dr. Margaret Hamburg also lauded the agreement, noting that stakeholders had made “great progress” since memorandum on food safety was signed at APEC meetings in Big Sky, Montana in May 2011.

With an increasingly global food system, “even a single food safety incident can have a significant worldwide impact,” said Hamburg.

“This calls for a new strategy, one being pursued by the FDA,” she added. “We must help build strong food safety systems around the world, and create global coalitions of regulators and information networks that promote prevention-focused, risk- based assignment of resources and leverage the efforts of public and private partners. This partnership is a step in that direction.”

Helena Bottemiller contributed reporting.