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SINGAPORE, 10TH APRIL 2024: As the 2nd Day of the GFSI Conference kicked off, the energy from the previous night’s networking event was still in the air. As the focus sharpened, the programme cut through the surface to dive deeper into the heart of the Conference themes under discussion. It was an agenda designed to challenge, inspire and inform. 

First off was Conference veteran Steve Wearne, Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission Food Standards Agency (CAC). Steve gave key updates on Codex and underlined the shared agenda between Codex and GFSI. He shared thoughts on future collaborative initiatives, especially with regards to the work being undertaken with USAID where GFSI will help small and medium food business operators in Africa to understand and respond to the specific capability building needs in the regions. Sadly, it would be the last time Steve addresses the GFSI Conference in his current capacity as Chair as he will be stepping down from the position at the end of the year. We thank Steve for the enormous contribution he has made to the GFSI agenda and look forward to welcoming him back in his new capacity. 

We need to make sure that we rely on science to produce more and better food. It should be available to answer the need of poor and rich people alike.” – Steve Wearne, Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission Food Standards Agency (CAC)

Before too long, participants were spoiled for choice as the first two of several parallel breakout sessions on Day 2 commenced. 

First up: all matters policy and regulation. In the session ‘Food Safety & Navigating the Tech Frontier: Regulatory Insights from the Asia-Pacific Region’ panellists bridged the gap between technological advancements and regulatory frameworks, and shared regional perspectives on the current regulatory eco-system that governs the ever-evolving field of food-tech. 

In the room next door, participants plunged into a session on ‘Strengthening Global Capabilities for Food Safety Risk Assessment in the Green Transition.’ How do we harmonise language around a sustainable food system? What does the regulatory landscape look like that makes safe and sustainable food possible? In a rare moment of consensus the panel spoke in one voice: safety and sustainability are not trade-offs. We need – and must have – both. 

We also need to have a proactive strategy in place as soon as possible that is based on everyone working together, and – not least – agreeing on a common language and definitions. That is the only way we’ll win and now more important than ever. The panel cautioned: we should not try to move the needle too fast. Whilst we need to respond to the challenges around risk-based regulation at pace, going too fast risks leaving SMEs in middle income countries behind.

So I’ve always wanted to sit on panels where there’s a bit more discussion between the panellists. So I’ve got my dream realised today, which is great.” – Roy Kirby, a panellist on #GFSI24 Day 1: Food Safety in the Green Transition – The Unintended Consequences

The second set of break-outs got underway after lunch was served in the lively interactive exhibition area. Positioned at the entrance of the main plenary hall, the space quickly became a vibrant hub, buzzing continuously with discussions among attendees drawn by the dual allure of networking with industry giants and enjoying the treats offered by exhibitors.

A panel discussion on ‘The Role of AI in Tackling Food Fraud’ showcased great examples of AI to tackle food fraud across various stakeholders such as Regulators or Industry members. The importance of quality and accuracy of data was highlighted in effectively detecting potential fraud issues, as well as ensuring compliance. Integration of AI in food safety management systems to address food fraud has enabled the identification of trends and changed the pattern of supply; which in turn allowed the food industry and regulators to make more effective decisions.

Food fraud is not only an economic issue, depending on the specific incident, it can also lead to food safety hazards.” – Dr. Yinqing Ma, Director of Compliance Policy Staff, Office of Compliance, CFSAN FDA

In an adjoining room, delegates engaged in a discussion with Richard Khaw, Deputy Director, School of Applied Science, Nanyang Polytechnic on ‘Singapore’s Standards and Regulations in Food Safety’. As Singaporean consumers are now more willing to actually pay a premium for higher quality and sustainable products, the industry is taking this into account when developing standards. 

“In Singapore, or anywhere in the world, we know that food safety is a joint responsibility. It’s not just regulations, responsibility is not just for the industry, consumers play a part as well.” – Richard Khaw, Deputy Director, School of Applied Science, Nanyang Polytechnic

In the ‘Supporting Business in Building  Food Safety Capabilities’ breakout session, Erica Sheward and Howard Popoola emphasised the importance of collaboration and innovation in the food safety industry. Isabelle Kumar and Cindy Jenks discussed the need for trust in the Global Markets Program (GMaP) and the importance of a unified approach to address confusion over the role that GFSI  plays in building food safety capabilities. Speakers also discussed enhancements made to food safety management systems, the intersection of food safety and mental health, and the need for a comprehensive framework that aligns language, principles, and practices around capability building for food safety and nutrition.

In what was an indisputable highlight of the day, Professor Patrick Wall, Professor of Public Health, University College Dublin rewired our thinking on the relationship between food safety and health. Doctors and nurses are not health professionals – they are sickness professionals. People that are in the food business or the exercise business are the true health professionals. Nutrition that is age, gender and lifestyle appropriate is absolutely imperative and can lead to a long and healthy life. For those that are feeling that age is a cruel and unavoidable reality – think again…

“60 is the new 30, and 90 is the new 60.  There is no reason that we cannot do what we did at 30 and 60 when we are 60 and 90 respectively, provided  we look after our nutrition” – Professor Patrick Wall, Professor of Public Health, University College Dublin

The day drew to a close with the Official Dinner, another highlight on the week’s social calendar. The dinner was held at the Flower Field Hall of the iconic Gardens by the Bay. Overlooking the Marina Bay skyline, guests dined and connected with fellow industry peers against the backdrop of perpetual spring. 

All too soon, tomorrow will usher in the final day of the GFSI conference this year. Participants can look forward to a special address from Dirk Van de Put, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Mondelēz International and current CGF Board Co-Chair, and a session on how imaginative narratives can be turned into tangible actions – reinforcing CGF’s reputation as a ‘do shop’ rather than a ‘talk shop’.


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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