SEATTLE — Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Conference, with people from dozens of countries in attendance.

The 2020 conference has attracted more than 1,000 food safety leaders from more than 50 countries. It was kicked off today by Peter Freedman, managing director of The Consumer Goods Forum (GCF).  Freedman pointed to the recent wildfires in Brazil as an example of how we could be at a tipping point. He said action is more important than ever and that it’s not just a matter of responding but responding urgently.

He also used recent E. coli outbreaks in 2017, 2018, and late 2019 to tell the industry leaders gathered at the conference that food safety cannot be taken for granted.

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“This week is not about us as individuals, it’s about how we come together as a collective of brilliant minds to provide solutions.” Erica Sheward, GFSI director, said when she took the stage.

She stressed that conference attendees should leave commercial interests at the door saying all present are all working toward the same goal, “making sure food is safe in all and every market.”

Sheward told a story about her mother who in 2008 was diagnosed with cancer. Her mom, a CEO, lost her job and her business at the same time and had to move in with her daughter. Her doctor told her she could not exercise while being treated for her cancer. However, exercise was her passion, so she researched and found that the doctor was wrong, and exercise could help during cancer treatment. She then used the skills she had gained as a CEO to help others going through cancer and even started a gym called “Cancer United” that helps people going through cancer treatment work out and fight the disease. “United Cancer” now has over 5,000 people coming to the gym.

Sheward explained how cancer changed her mom’s life for the better. She realized how much more she could achieve when she worked for the greater good and united with like-minded people with unique talents. She believes that the people attending the conference can likewise unite and work together for the greater good.

“I invite you to commit to working together to achieve our mission of safe food for consumers everywhere.”

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