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SINGAPORE, 9TH APRIL 2024: The highly anticipated 2024 GFSI Conference opened today at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Hotel, championing its mission of ‘Safe Food for All.’ 

Unfolding against the backdrop of a rapidly changing global environment, this year over 500 industry leaders from the GFSI community convened to tackle urgent challenges at the intersection of climate change, technology—especially AI—and how these are impacting global food safety. It is the right conversation at the right time.  Both climate change and AI carry with it considerable risks and opportunities respectively. The food safety community wants to keep pace as we develop our future strategies.  To this end, Day 1 set a formidable stage with insightful discussions on some of the most pressing issues that are central to the food industry’s collective journey towards a safer food future.

“Food safety is not just an industry term. It’s a fundamental human right. Every individual, regardless of their geographic location, socio-economic status or cultural background, has the intrinsic right to safe and nutritious food.” – Erica Sheward, Director of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), The Consumer Goods Forum.

The Conference, known for its legacy of thought-leadership, programmatic excellence, and invaluable networking, remains the must-attend event in the food industry calendar. The exchange of innovative ideas fostered not only concepts but real solutions — where the magic of progress and partnership ignites. 

Wai-Chan Chan, Managing Director of the CGF, and Erica Sheward, CGF’s Director of the GFSI, set the stage for the keynote speakers of the day. Dr. Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, Ministry of Transport, Republic of Singapore, emphasised the current state of food safety in Singapore. 

“We can enhance food safety, not only within our borders, but also globally and in so doing, we can contribute to the wellbeing of populations worldwide.” – Dr. Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, Ministry of Transport, Republic of Singapore. 

Shortly after, Vipul Chawla, Group CEO of FairPrice Group, highlighted that doing the right thing is always a choice, regardless of circumstance. Both keynote speakers highlighted the need of multi sector collaboration to achieve food safety objectives which are shared by all.

“Now that incorporating sustainability in the business is no longer a nice to have. It’s a must have. Customers today make purchase decisions with their hearts and actively seek out brands that they perceive to be doing good for the planet” – Vipul Chawla, Group CEO of FairPrice Group. 

As the rest of the sessions unfolded, a diverse array of experts delved deeper. 

GFSI Co-Chairs Howard Popoola, The Kroger Company, and Mark Fryling, General Mills, together with GFSI China Steering Committee Co-Chair, Kelvin Chen, and Cindy Jenks from Pick n Pay made compelling updates on all three of the GFSI strategic priorities, the Coalition’s Race to The Top Framework programme of transformational change, and the ambitious programme of work GFSI is pushing ahead with. As the focus shifted to technology, particularly AI, and climate change, a discussion on their potential impact on food safety made for a lively discussion as risks and opportunities came into focus.

During a very well-received session on ‘Unleashing the Power of Technology for Food Safety Management’ the discussion turned towards leveraging technology in food safety. Can technology help to make ‘safe food for all’ a reality? The answer: possibly, but with clear caveats. The deployment of technology is not a one-size-fits all solution and certainly no panacea. For technology to be an ally, numerous factors come into play: the need to harmonise antiquated legacy systems; regional and organisational differences; suitability; the level of trust and the state of the overall operating environment. These are just some of the considerations that need to be taken into consideration for technology to help rather than hinder. In addition, addressing consumer concerns about tech benefits are of the utmost importance. 

In another room, a panel on “Food Safety in the Green Transition” explored whether the industry could align with the green agenda to benefit all stakeholders and discussed the role of regenerative agriculture in shaping a resilient and safe future for all. With a focus on primary production, the session focused on how the tension between food safety and sustainability can be mitigated. Panellists highlighted the multiple impacts of sustainable food production on food safety, but focused on solutions such as the critical importance of research and data to better understand the issue, and the regulatory landscape that needs to evolve and integrate as the industry adapts to consumer demands, starting with the design of safe and sustainable food, notwithstanding cost optimisation. 

Towards the end of the day, representatives from Health Canada, PepsiCo and the CGF Coalition on Plastic Waste discussed “Navigating the Intersection of Food Safety & Plastics”. They emphasised the need for harmonising plastic recycling global regulations and the importance of establishing a food safety management framework within companies to ensure the safety of PETs – from design to delivery – to mitigate potential risks food safety posed by packaging. All agreed: plastic waste is a global challenge that requires collaboration and harmonised regulations on food contact for recycled plastics.

As the programme came to a close, the panel on “Digitising Food Safety: Navigating Challenges and Digital Upskillings in the Industry’ grappled with how digitalisation can transform food safety management? The panel explored the importance of data-driven decision making, upskilling talent, and continued collaboration to predict and prevent food fraud. 

Throughout the day networking breaks provided a good opportunity for attendees to digest the day’s learnings, exchange ideas, and do business. During lunchtime the atmosphere in the exhibition hall buzzed with conversations as old friends and colleagues reconnected and new relationships were forged.

This momentum carried through to the Official Opening Cocktail early evening, a hallmark GFSI tradition. Over the years the GFSI Conference has become known as much for its outstanding content as the CGF’s ability to host a good get-together. Amidst the clinking of glasses, the cocktail offered a relaxed backdrop for continued dialogue and underscored one of the key reasons attendees return year after year.

With Day 1 completed, it was clear that the GFSI Conference was more than an event; it was a call to action. As the conference moves into Day 2, the journey continues.

Stay tuned for more highlights from #GFSI24 in Singapore tomorrow! 


Note to Editors:

Visit GFSI on Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube to be the first to hear updates and new programme confirmations. 

About the Global Food Safety Initiative

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is a landmark initiative of The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global industry network working to support better lives through better business. GFSI brings together key actors of the food industry to collaboratively drive continuous improvement in food safety management systems around the world. With a vision of safe food for people everywhere, food industry leaders created GFSI in 2000 to find collaborative solutions to collective concerns, notably to reduce food safety risks, audit duplication and costs while building trust throughout the supply chain. The GFSI community works on a volunteer basis and is composed of the world’s leading food safety experts from retail, manufacturing and food service companies, as well as international organisations, governments, academia and service providers to the global food industry.  GFSI is powered by The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global industry network working to support Better Lives Through Better Business.

About The Consumer Goods Forum

  • The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) is the only CEO-led organisation that represents both manufacturers and retailers globally. It brings together senior leaders from more than 400 retailers, manufacturers and other stakeholders across 70 countries. 
  • The CGF accelerates change through nine Coalitions of Action: forests, human rights, plastics, healthier lives, food waste, food safety, supply chains, product data and net zero. 
  • Its member companies have combined sales of EUR 4.6 trillion and directly employ nearly 10 million people, with a further 90 million related jobs estimated along the value chain. It is governed by its Board of Directors, which comprises more than 55 manufacturer and retailer CEOs.  

For more information, please visit: www.theconsumergoodsforum.com 

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