No one gets a trophy for implementing a preventative program. Acts of heroism are defined in crisis moments, not in a strategic, methodical development of a prevention plan. While that is understood, the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” still holds true here. Combating Food Fraud is an effort that requires prevention. That prevention is most efficient within a coordinated, global public-private partnership.
The concept of governments and industry working together was a recurring topic during the Food Safety Summit held last week in Baltimore. As in previous events, this attracted a wide-range of important regulators and the usual influential Food Safety members of industry. Those leaders kept mentioning the goal of public-private partnership… and the efficiency of coordinated collaboration. From Michael Taylor (Deputy Commissioner for Foods, FDA) and Elisabeth Hagen (Undersecretary for Food Safety, USDA) in the Town Hall meeting, to the employees at the FDA Center for Food Safety and Nutrition (CFSAN) booth, collaboration was a common theme.
The FDA speakers in the Food Fraud Session defined the overall agency objectives and the alignment with the Food Safety Modernization Act. They stated “The FDA’s goal is not to just identify violations but to help provide safe food.” They also discussed some of the shifting regulatory landscape in the US and abroad:
• National to Global
• Component View to System Perspective
• Adversarial to Collaborative
• Reactive to Proactive
• Compliance to Oversight
These all underscore the prevention focus and the partnerships with industry.
Industry echoed these themes, including in the Keynote Address by Will Daniels (SVP Earthbound Farms… a rousing presentation as expected) and by Yves Rey (General Manager of Corporate Quality for Danone and the Chair of the Global Food Safety Initiative – GFSI). Regarding Food Fraud prevention, Yves stated that it’s the perfect time to take a prevention approach because it will be harder after other groups start implementing plans. With the growing list of high profile Food Fraud incidents – melamine to horse meat to rat meat – others in governments and industry WILL have to get going. The governments and industry will be quickly implementing programs and countermeasures. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the GFSI is addressing Food Fraud and is receiving insight from a Food Fraud Think Tank it created (I am one of the five core members). Yves also stated “GFSI decided to tackle the issue head on,” and “Food Fraud has been defined by the [GFSI board] as a Food Safety issue.”
While responding to a Food Fraud incident requires a team of crisis managers, there are stakeholders starting to focus on prevention. How to expand the focus from detection to deterrence to prevention, and the roles of each player in the public-private partnership, are still to be defined… well, to correct that, we ARE all defining it now. This is an unprecedented opportunity for you to participate in shaping public policy and industry best practices. Join with your industry groups, make sure to submit your comments to the FDA request for comments on Economically Motivated Adulteration (see previous blog post ), and become educated in our MOOC (this Friday, register here ). JWS.