This is the second post regarding the GFSI conference. This includes insight from the pre-conference GFSI stakeholder meetings on Wednesday and also from the conference closing remarks on Friday.
Pre-Conference GFSI Meeting
GFSI Vice-Chair Frank Yiannas (VP Food Safety, Walmart) led the meeting that included a set of electronic survey questions that solicited live responses from the 300+ session attendees. Two survey questions in particular addressed “Food Fraud/ Economically Motivated Adulteration” concerns:
1. “What critical area should GFSI focus on over the next 3 years?“
• Auditor competence: 18%
• Driving common acceptance of GFSI recognition: 21%
• Support for small suppliers: 18%
• Regulatory acceptance of private schemes: 21%
• Food safety culture: 15%
• Economically Motivated Adulteration/ Food Fraud: 7%
2. “What is the top food safety issue within your business?”
• Ingredient suppliers: 34%
• Pathogens: 15%
• Auditor competence: 10%
• Training and education: 26%
• Product labeling: 7%
• Economically Motivated Adulteration/ Food Fraud: 8%
I agree that Food Fraud is a very important topic and a critical emerging risk. Considering the traditional Food Safety challenges facing the food industry, I am surprised Food Fraud has risen to such importance in such a short period of time. Two years ago Food Fraud wasn’t even on the GFSI conference agenda.
Throughout the conference Food Fraud was a topic of conversation. In the Food Fraud session GFSI Chair Yves Rey said “the prevention of adulteration is a clear goal of GFSI and of Interpol.” The role of GFSI in the bigger global setting was reiterated by FDA. Michael Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods, Office of Foods stated “public private partnership [such as with GFSI] is utterly critical to the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act.”
Conference Closing Remarks
In the closing session presentation on “Beyond Benchmarking – The Future of GFSI,” Board Member Hugo Byrnes (VP Product Integrity, Royal Ahold) identified Food Fraud as one of six top challenges for GFSI, along with the likes of globalization, complex supply chains, transparency in supply chains, increased technology to detect low levels of contamination, and gene typing that identifies sources of outbreaks. He stated that to prevent Food Safety incidents the industry must focus on new, broad concepts such as Food Fraud. He expressed the need to look beyond the usual concepts of “product risk” and “supplier risk” to broader “vulnerabilities.” GFSI strategic thinkers are making a statement that they are broadening their vision. (A risk is something that has occurred and will unfortunately probably occur again. The objective is to reduce risks. A vulnerability may never have, and might not ever, occur, but it could. A vulnerability can be eliminated.)
Mr. Byrnes made a very important statement about Food Fraud that I had not explicitly considered: “fortunately it is not [the food industry] responsibility to define what is illegal.”
Of course the food industry and regulators will be dealing with this emerging risk no matter who defines whether or not an incident is technically “illegal”. JWS.