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As our food network becomes more globalized and interconnected, we have seen a shift towards greater transparency and integrity as consumers are awakened to issues of food safety and traceability. With this has come a recognition that we cannot build a safer and more efficient food supply chain without the support of local and national public partners. Utilizing our collective resources, industry stakeholders and governments can work more effectively together to ensure that there are safeguards in place along the entire value chain, from origination to the end consumer.

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With this understanding that we can’t go it alone, GFSI has made it a priority to foster public-private partnerships (PPPs) between private companies, government food safety regulators, and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) in order to harmonize global food safety regulations and reduce barriers to trade. By stimulating dialogue and joint programmes between public and private sectors, GFSI is working to advance food safety worldwide while building consumer trust and increasing industry efficiency.

GFSI SENASICA press conf web squareAs Chair of the GFSI Board of Directors, I am proud to see the growing dialogue GFSI is leading. This kind of public-private collaboration is unprecedented. It’s very rare to see this level of government support for private and public sector collaboration. 10 years ago this would have been almost unthinkable but the support we’re seeing around the world now is signaling a big, positive change.

Typically governments and industry have more of a polarized relationship. GFSI has reached out across that divide to talk about working with governments on our shared goal of safe food for consumers everywhere. The result is a win-win for everyone and a more transparent, collaborative process.

Governments have seen that closer partnerships provide them with access to private sector know-how and best practices. In addition, governments are able to benefit from GFSI’s food safety capability-building expertise and core curriculum found in our Global Markets Programme. This initiative provides guidance for companies with underdeveloped food safety systems, helping them to address their food safety challenges while simultaneously reducing hazards in global food supply chains and improving market access through certification via GFSI’s recognized certification program owners (CPOs). The programme presents an opportunity for greater alignment between private and public approaches, improved regulatory efficiencies, and trade-promoting activities.

As Chair of the GFSI Board of Directors, I am proud to see the growing dialogue GFSI is leading. This kind of public-private collaboration is unprecedented. 10 years ago this would have been almost unthinkable but the support we’re seeing around the world now is signaling a big, positive change.

Unprecedented Government Support at GFSC 2018

As one of GFSI’s three key objectives, PPPs will be a central focus of our 2018 Global Food Safety Conference, taking place in Tokyo 5-8 March. Building on the success of the 2017 Conference, which hosted over 1200 delegates from more than 60 countries, this year’s event will continue to foster discussion around increased public-private collaboration for global public health outcomes.

At last year’s conference in Houston we had great success reaching North and South American governments. At the conference in Tokyo we are looking to repeat this by reaching governments in Asia. With collaborative relationships already in place in China and Japan, and programmes underway in Malaysia and Indonesia, GFSI is proactively working to launch more initiatives in ASEAN countries while building a regional movement towards greater public-private collaboration.

Experts in food safety and public leaders from all over the world will take the stage in Tokyo to demonstrate how their own work and GFSI’s efforts to build PPPs is making safer food for consumers everywhere. We are delighted to have these high-level representatives share their perspectives on the future of food safety and the role of public-private collaboration in increasing third party certification at both the national and international level. The Conference programme will also see IGOs provide insights on food safety from a humanitarian perspective and discuss development programmes in emerging markets in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

Other Conference highlights include an announcement of the winners of the Global Markets Programme Awards, which recognizes five companies that have leveraged GFSI’s Global Markets Programme to create an enabling environment for food safety within their organizations.

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Adjacent to the conference, Government-to-Government (G2G) and Government-to-Business (G2B) meetings will also take place. Following successful G2G and G2B meetings at the 2016 and 2017 Conferences, these sessions will give industry leaders and government food safety officials an opportunity to review emerging food safety issues and discuss opportunities for public-private collaboration. Dialogue will seek to align understanding about third-party certification and private standards and explore how regulators and the private sector can jointly achieve food safety outcomes.

Deepening Partnerships with Food Safety Regulators Internationally

Over the last several years GFSI has worked to bridge the public-private divide by proactively reaching out to governments and building a coalition of progressive companies. This level of cooperation around the shared goal of safe food is unprecedented and stems from GFSI’s unique position as a recognized leader in the benchmarking of global food safety standards. Governments have begun embracing closer partnerships with the private sector in a way that would have been almost unthinkable just ten years ago.

Here’s a look at just a few of the recent successes we’ve had in building these PPPs:

  • Japan’s Minister of Agriculture publicly endorsed the GFSI certification process and Global Markets Programme at a recent GFSI Focus Day in Tokyo, while noting GFSI’s role in supporting exports and encouraging Japanese CPOs to seek GFSI recognition.
  • GFSI solidified an agreement with the Mexican National Service of Health, Food Safety and Agro-Food Quality (SENASICA) by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the 2017 Global Food Safety Conference.
  • We are delighted to be continually deepening our relationship with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), who have played a leading role in our efforts for global public-private collaboration. Both their policy on private certification programmes and their support of the GFSI-hosted public-private dialogue (G2G and G2B meetings) adjacent to the Global Food Safety Conference have been instrumental in paving the way forward.
  • Building on an MoU signed in 2015, China’s food safety regulator recently indicated its desire to collaborate on harmonization and communication with GFSI and the recognized private sector CPOs active in China.
  • We have signed a Letter of Intent to work with Argentina’s Ministry of Agri-business on a national training program based on the GFSI Global Markets Programme.
  • GFSI is continuing to work with national food safety regulators in France, the UK, and the Netherlands to establish guidelines on the integration of third party certification into the European regulatory framework.

We’re thrilled to see such diverse collaboration taking place across the world. Governments and industry leaders are recognizing that the future of our food system lies in working effectively together. The private sector can’t do it alone. Governments can’t do it alone either. The only way we’ll be effective and efficient in reaching our shared goals is to leverage our collective resources.

We look forward to continued public-private partnerships and the unprecedented level of government support at GFSC 2018. I hope you can join us in Tokyo to be part of the discussion and to drive forward collaboration and transparency in food safety for all.

This post was written and contributed by:

Mike Robach
Chair of the GFSI Board of Directors
Vice President, Corporate Food Safety, Quality & Regulatory, Cargill, Inc., USA

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