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As 2017 draws to a close, our sights are set on Tokyo for the industry’s annual rendezvous for the advancement of food safety. The past few years have seen the world’s top food brands forge a bold path towards cultivating a global culture of food safety, providing leadership and expertise across the industry.

This year’s Global Food Safety Conference came together around this foundational idea of leadership through trust, transparency, and technology. Various programmes centred on such themes as capacity-building, transparency and visibility in the supply chain, enhanced public-private partnerships, and leveraging technology and metrics. The themes explored by speakers at this year’s conference will remain relevant in the years to come.

The 2018 Conference will continue to explore these and other trends, providing insights on the latest in food safety news and consumer demand, while exploring developments in science and technology. This year’s focus will be on practical application, providing delegates with concrete and actionable nuggets that they can take away and apply to their own operations.

In the lead-up to the 2018 Conference, I’ve had many discussions with our Programme Committee on how to best showcase food safety leadership on the GFSC stage. I’m delighted with the many inspiring stories of leadership that are coming together in the programme, some where you’ll perhaps least expect it. And we all agreed to include CEOs of industry heavyweights themselves, inviting them to share how they foster a food safety culture in their companies.

We are honoured that CEOs from some of the world’s top food companies will be joining us and speaking at a number of plenary sessions. On the opening day we welcome Motoya Okada, President and Group CEO, AEON; Ken Theriault, CEO, Costco Japan; and Takaaki Nishi, President and Chief Executive Officer, Ajinomoto Co., Ltd. for our Retailer CEO panel. The discussion will center around food safety culture, leading by example and how this works in each CEO’s company.

In the afternoon of the opening day, Sarah L. Casanova, CEO of McDonald’s Holdings, Japan will join others to discuss the importance of listening to consumers.

As leaders in food safety and within their respective companies, these executives are positioned to deliver industry-leading knowledge and practical insights to over 1,000 conference delegates from 60 countries. These leaders demonstrate that, while fostering a culture of food safety may differ from country to country and from company to company, the key building blocks to cultivating a strong food safety culture remain the same. These include a commitment to leading from the top, sustaining behavioural change through accountability and analytics, and maintaining a consumer-centric approach.

Leading Food Safety From the Front

Japanese retailer AEON is a case in point, bringing sustainability, environmental, and societal issues to the forefront of its operations. In 2013 AEON President and Group CEO Motoya Okada signed a joint declaration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to promote economic and social development in emerging markets and developing countries. The program incorporates AEON’s Good Citizenship Business Principles to build up supplier capacity by integrating food safety, sustainability, and community development throughout the supply chain.

At the wholesale giant Costco, food safety and sustainability are an innate part of business. This culture runs from the top down all the way through the organisation, with senior leadership championing “continuous improvement in product quality, and food safety systems, for the benefit of our members and suppliers”. This mission statement is further distilled through a four-point plan that includes food safety training for all employees and food safety vendor audits.

Food, chemical, and pharmaceutical manufacturer Ajinomoto strives to deliver on safety and quality assurance through each stage of its value chain, from R&D and product development that incorporates consumer preferences and nutritional needs, to raw material procurement and manufacturing that follow strict quality control, evaluation, and traceability standards. Embodying its corporate message to “Live Well, Eat Well”, Ajinomoto is continually working to produce products that give customers peace of mind and that contribute to a wider food and health research agenda. President and CEO Takaaki Nishi has set a high bar for the company, with a goal of becoming one of the world’s ten largest food manufacturers by 2020.

McDonald’s Japan has been in the spotlight on both sides of food safety. Sarah Casanova, who became CEO of McDonald’s Japan in the wake of a food safety incident, has since done wonders to turn around both the company’s image and profits.When food incidents occur it’s important to listen to customers, work together to solve issues, innovate and use the learnings to make sure to regain customer trust.

In addition to implementing safeguards and cutting out under-performing suppliers, Casanova traveled across the country to speak with customers and learn more about what they wanted. McDonald’s responded to calls for greater transparency by putting QR codes on food packaging that lets consumers scan for ingredient information and see exactly where their food comes from.

Across the food industry, companies are faced with increasing pressure to innovate and embrace digital channels. Empowered consumers are demanding not only high-quality, health-conscious products, but sustainable, ethical, and transparent sourcing and manufacturing practices. To stay ahead of the curve and learn from the industry’s top CEOs and other experts, join us in Tokyo at the 2018 Global Food Safety Conference.

It is a real pleasure for me to lead the development of such purpose-driven conference and I’m continually inspired by its capacity to convene the global industry in such a collaborative and friendly forum. We are working hard to craft the delegate experience that will allow you to learn, network, share your stories and do business. I hope to see you in Tokyo!

GFSC Director

This post was written and contributed by Global Food Safety Conference Programme Director:

Marjolein Raes
Knowledge and Best-Practice Sharing Director
The Consumer Goods Forum

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