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The plenaries aren’t the only must-see programming at the GFSI Conference 2019. Over the three-day conference, the plenary room will sometimes split into smaller, more intimate spaces to host concurrent breakouts: sessions that take a deep dive into key topics affecting the food industry.

The breakout sessions provide an opportunity to learn specific, applicable information about issues that the more broadly-focused plenaries touch upon. The presentations feature real-life case studies – success stories and lessons learned – and offer a practical, hands on approach from those at the forefront of food safety. Speakers include renowned academics, industry leaders and food safety innovators, all ready to answer questions from an engaged audience.

This year, the breakouts will center around the theme of the conference: emerging challenges and the future of food safety. Delegates will hear about current hot-button topics, including allergen management and food chain threats, and discover innovative methods to address these challenges, from Big Data to third party certification. There will also be a bonus 10th breakout sessions conducted by GFSI-recognised certification programme owners.

There’s a breakout for every kind of delegate, from first-time conference attendees looking for an introduction to GFSI’s programmes to subject experts eager to join in-depth discussions on technological trends. The topics will include:

Detailed descriptions of the breakout sessions are available in the full official programme, coming next week so make sure you are signed up to receive our updates. With the concurrent sessions running three at a time, the hardest part is choosing which to attend!

Building Capacity in Developing Markets

Recognising the inextricable link between safe, secure food and socioeconomic development, the UN has incorporated food safety into its SDG targets for Agenda 2030. This plenary will advance pathways that can lead developing markets towards these food safety capacity targets, with due attention paid to every actor in the agri-food chain. Speakers with experience in developing markets around the world will consider holistic approaches to capacity building, such as nutrition programmes, policy interventions and technological innovations, that demonstrably improve food safety and thereby quality of life.

Addressing Emerging Challenges

Designed as a companion to Plenary 2, this breakout session will showcase methods for addressing food safety challenges, with an emphasis on anticipating risks before they arise. Experienced professionals from academia, manufacturing, distribution and retail will share challenges that they have observed in their respective sectors and propose solutions to emerging risks. Delegates in attendance will come away with the knowledge necessary to prevent and mitigate these risks in their own organisations.

Managing Threats to the Food Chain

As raw materials become scarcer and tariffs more plentiful, criminals have more incentive than ever to take advantage of the food sector through economically-driven threats like counterfeiting, cyberattacks and outright robbery. The weakly-equipped industrial food sector has been made more vulnerable by the push to digitise and automate without sufficient security measures. This session gives the floor to the actors working tirelessly to protect us from food system attacks, including security experts from the private and public sectors at the frontline of the burgeoning food defense perimeter known as “biovigilance.”

The Future of Food Safety is Data Management

Thanks to innovative data technologies, we have a wealth of valuable information at our fingertips, ready to teach us how to better grow, process and sell safe food. This session will use real-life, practical examples to illustrate how Big Data is currently applied in the context of food safety, with suggestions for future growth. Speakers will examine the existing tools and approaches and demonstrate how these capabilities are helping companies improve consumer engagement, supply chain security and food quality.

How Third-party Certification Supports Trade Harmonisation

In today’s globally intertwined food supply chain, collaboration between the public and private sectors and among governments is imperative; only uninterrupted, harmonised communication can guarantee safe food for consumers everywhere. This session will share insights on the potential for third-party food safety certification to enhance trade and supplement national regulatory frameworks. The panelists, who include international regulatory leaders, will describe regional and global initiatives between the public and private sectors that apply third-party certification as a vehicle for trade harmonisation.

The Future of Microbiology

Among all the scientific fields currently being disrupted by technological breakthroughs, none is changing more quickly than microbiology. Developments in microbiology will provide new tools, concepts and ways of working to food safety risk assessors, but will also require laboratories, competencies and industrial practices to change accordingly. This session will highlight emerging methodological approaches in food safety microbiology, including new generation sequencing technology and modelling, and possible concerns these methods may raise. Perspectives from stakeholders outside of academia will illustrate the wide-ranging importance of these technical developments.

Creative Solutions for Allergen Management

After a series of high-profile allergy incidents, the world is paying closer attention to allergen management in the food industry than ever before. In this session, a diverse roster of speakers will discuss their approaches to allergen management, with a focus on practical methods for assessing risk, detecting allergen contamination and informing the allergic consumer. From a personalised mobile app for supermarkets to thoughtful ingredient labelling for food service providers, stakeholders are finding creative ways to keep their consumers safe.

The Changing Face of Retail & Food Service

The ways that customers buy and consume their food are becoming as diverse as the ways they ‘consume’ their information, and the entire food chain is adapting to the overarching desire to get whatever, whenever and wherever. This session will explore the evolving faces of food service and retail, including new channels like B2B and e-commerce, and the food safety challenges that arise in the wake of these changes. By adapting regulation to the dynamism of modern food service and retail, mapping the supply chain with traceability solutions and — above all — better understanding the consumer, we can ensure more targeted risk communication and mitigation.

Finger on the Pulse of Certification

This breakout session will take stock of the global status of third-party certification, an important means for the industry to ensure safety and instill trust all along the food chain. The conversation will give voice to a broad cross-section of the stakeholders involved in certification, including GFSI-recognised certification programme owners, solution providers, owners of small-to-medium enterprises that buy food safety certification audits and regulators that collaborate with third-party auditors. Together with these speakers, members of the GFSI board will consider recent achievements in third-party certification and identify remaining spaces for improvement. This topic will lead to a lively debate on the future of third-party certification, including possible opportunities to further reduce food safety risks across our supply chains. Speakers will propose improvements that can help increase efficiency and meet stakeholder expectations for full transparency and traceability, while keeping in mind that the way forward is often to step back.

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