As our food network becomes more globalised and interconnected, we have seen a shift towards greater transparency and integrity as consumers are awakened to issues of food safety and traceability. Working for GFSI for the past six years has reinforced my strong belief that national and international public partners cannot build a safer and more efficient food supply chain without the support of the industry.
My job at GFSI consists of shaping the right environments to create trust, engage in dialogue and facilitate the scaling up of impact. Front and centre of this endeavour is working towards a situation whereby the value of accredited third-party certification programmes recognised by GFSI are understood and trusted by public authorities. A greater level of understanding results in public authorities being empowered to use the GFSI ecosystem to support their national food control systems as a risk-based resource allocation tool.
GFSI believes that by harnessing our collective resources, industry stakeholders and governments can work more effectively together to ensure that there are shared tools in place along the entire value chain, from origination to the end consumer to ensure safe food for people everywhere.
With recognition of the fact that GFSI cannot do it alone, we have made it a priority to foster public-private partnerships (PPPs) between private companies, government food safety regulators, and intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) in order to harmonise global food safety regulations and reduce barriers to trade. By stimulating dialogue and developing joint programmes between the public and private sectors, GFSI is working to advance food safety worldwide whilst building consumer trust and increasing industry efficiency. It is for this very reason that one of three strategic outcomes for GFSI is to strengthen public-private partnerships so that food safety regulators trust that GFSI certification can be used for risk-based resource allocation.
In November 2020 the 73rd World Health Assembly passed resolution 73.5 on Strengthening Efforts on Food Safety, acknowledging the significant burden of foodborne disease, and the critical role that food safety plays in the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals, the contribution to the WHO’s Thirteenth General Programme of Work 2019-2023 and efforts to address universal health coverage. The resolution requested that the WHO global strategy for food safety (2002) be updated to address current and emerging challenges, incorporate new technologies and include innovative strategies for strengthening food safety systems. WHO published its draft global food safety strategy for 2022-2030 for public consultation in May 2021 and in an effort to engage the private sector in this strategy, WHO contacted GFSI with a specific request to provide a response to the consultation.
GFSI recognised the great opportunity to not only answer the global food safety strategy for 2022-2030 specifically but also to further share industry insights and also provide overt support to the WHO on the implementation of the strategy. GFSI has welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with WHO on bringing much needed industry perspectives on their food safety strategy via engagement with industry leaders and members of the CGF. The CGF members of the food safety Coalition of Action responded positively:
- by supporting and reinforcing their commitment to assist WHO in delivering WHA 73.5 (Accelerating Efforts on Food Safety) via its new strategic framework
- mandating their food safety teams via the GFSI CODEX Committee to comment and provide feedback to WHO on the food safety strategy and additionally providing comments on how GFSI can assist WHO in delivering its strategic framework on food safety
- by proposing to WHO that we engage in a broader discussion to establish a formal collaboration framework to engage CGF members to act as implementing partners of the strategy.
In the interests of transparency, GFSI is publishing both documents sent to WHO on 4th October: the WHO food safety strategy with GFSI comments in the document and an overall position paper on the strategic framework. You can find all responses to the WHO public consultation from all stakeholders who responded, including GFSI, on the WHO website.
In several weeks, GFSI will engage in a discussion with WHO on how, via a collaboration framework, GFSI can support the implementation of the WHO global food safety strategy 2022-2030. In that context, we would like to hear from you on how you would expect GFSI to engage with WHO in the framework of the Race to the Top.
With this draft global food safety strategy 2022-2030, we hope this is the beginning of a new era that will ease and enhance partnerships between WHO and the private sector.