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The Global Food Safety Initiative is delighted to support the World Accreditation Day again this year. Coordinated by the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), #WAD2020 takes place on 9 June, just two days after the World Food Safety Day. This world day is an exceptional vehicle to raise awareness around the key role accreditation plays in ensuring safe food for consumers everywhere.

As our world faces unprecedented threats due to COVID-19, safeguarding both consumers and global supply chains is more crucial – and more challenging – than ever before. Against this backdrop, GFSI is delighted that IAF has chosen to focus its attention for the 2020 edition around the theme “Accreditation: Improving Food Safety”.

As part of the GFSI Experts Series, GFSI’s Marie-Claude Quentin sat down with IAF Director Marcus Long and IAF Co-Convener Skip Greenaway to discuss the importance of accreditation, the value of the IAF-GFSI partnership and their hopes for the World Accreditation Day.

Watch their conversation on today’s episode of the GFSI Experts Series and get ready to engage with GFSI and IAF on World Accreditation Day! Details of the campaign and useful resources can be found on the IAF website. We’ll keep an eye out for your messages on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, with the hashtags #WAD2020 and #GFSI.

Marie-Claude: Thank you very much for joining us today. Can you tell us who you are and your relationship to IAF?

Skip Greenaway: I’m Skip Greenaway. I’m co-chair, with Kylie Sheehan of JAS-ANZ, of the IAF Food Working Group. I’m here today representing not only IAF but also our industry. I am a part of the certification body community, and I’m chairman of Eagle Certification Group.

Marcus Long: Hi, I’m Marcus Long. I’m chief executive of IIOC, which is a CB association. Most importantly, in terms of IAF, I’m an IAF director representing all the CB association members of IAF.

Marie-Claude: Thank you very much. The key thing we wanted to talk about today is that the theme of the World Accreditation Day, coordinated by the IAF, relates to food safety. Tell us what the theme is, and why the IAF decided this was worth running this year.

Marcus: World Accreditation Day is on the 9th of June this year. The theme is “accreditation improving food safety.” … It’s (two days) after the second-ever UN World Food Safety Day, so it gives us an excellent opportunity, a real double whammy of publicity about how our system — the GFSI system, certification, accreditation — can help drive better food safety around the world. It’s a great opportunity for us to really push that message to regulators, to governments, to business and to consumers as well, and say, look, there is a strong, robust system here. What we’re now looking to do is take those themes and drive them into the work we’re doing. … It’s really exciting, this level of dynamism going on at the moment, and this spirit of people wanting to bring their expertise together to work positively to make things better.

Skip: I think one of the key pieces that we need to make sure to remind everybody is the word accreditation. In my opinion, the power of GFSI (is in) recognising the fact that accreditation is critical to not only their product and what they’re trying to do, but it’s also critical to IAF. … (Accreditation) is behind all of the activities around the world, whether we’re talking about food, whether we’re talking about aerospace, whether we’re talking about automotive, whether we’re talking about social responsibility. Behind it is the word accreditation. It gives the strength and the power of an independent oversight that, quite frankly, is helping all of us do the right thing. To me, food safety is not a competitive situation. It’s absolutely something that all of us, no matter who we are and who we compete with, (are) all in this together, because we all have to be committed to take the world to a safer place.

Marie-Claude: As you mentioned, the IAF works with all industries. When I joined GFSI in October 2017, one of our first tasks was to go into the IAF meetings, because the CGF is a member of the IAF and represented GFSI, and also conclude the signature of a memorandum of understanding between the IAF and GFSI which has been in the making for many years. I have to say, I was very welcomed. I felt that the IAF is very excited to be working with GFSI and with the food industry. At the same time, there was a disappointment that we hadn’t been so active. I’ve been trying to address this since October 2017, so I wanted to have your reflection on how you feel this has gone through the last years.

Skip: You’re very welcome. … The key word now is partnership. In any partnership, it takes two to make it successful. And for us, we didn’t see that commitment from GFSI until you came. You were so committed to (listening) to what IAF was all about … and you also wanted to understand how can GFSI fit in. What did you have to do to take it back to the GFSI board and understand what that commitment was? And that commitment was to (finalise) a new MoU. … GFSI and IAF talked about it for a long time, but it never got executed, and that was an important piece that I think really helped IAF see that GFSI truly was committed to (making) this thing work.

Marcus: We had a real challenge from GFSI last October that said, is this working? … I think that caused an absolute shift in our thinking and our level of dynamism that we hadn’t had before. We were kind of going in first gear, getting the MoU as a foundation. We absolutely went up to fifth or sixth gear very rapidly when you said to us, tell us whether you think this system is working. We have been working flat-out as the accreditation and the certification community to come back to GFSI with some ideas about how we can improve things. I think, (according to) some of the discussions that have gone on this week between the accreditation (community), the certification community and the GFSI board, we’ve got this huge level of willingness to make a significant change, a real recognition of the partnerships that we have and a recognition of the fact that we’ve all got some values and strengths to put in to make it better and deliver safer food. There’s a real sense of optimism about wanting to take this forward, do more and do better things to deliver safer food.

Skip: What I think really enforced it was, a couple of the non-food people that were in the meeting that you presented the challenge to us, they quickly spoke up and said, we don’t want to be a part of the problem. We want to be a part of the solution. In my mind, when I heard that, I said, we got it. We were going to help. … It wasn’t about correcting something negative. It was about challenging (ourselves) to get to the top. How do we raise the bar? How do we get to the top? In my mind, it really resonated with everybody, and everybody really approached our meetings in a positive manner.

Marcus: What we want to do is bring (our) knowledge, as a certification and accreditation community, of audits. … If we can share that … we can get things working a lot more positively.

Skip: We also want to make sure that everybody understands that just because we’re accredited, just because GFSI has worked hard at making sure that people have accountability to the certificate, does not mean that we’re going to eliminate recalls. We’re still going to have recalls. The issue is, how do we not have the same incident the second time? Accreditation helps us have a system whereby we can go back to that system and see: What did we miss? How do we improve it? … We’re human beings. We’re auditors that are there trying to deliver a value to the system, but it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to make mistakes, and it doesn’t mean that we’re going to have zero recalls. What it means is we have a place to go to make sure that everybody is working hard to correct it.

Marie-Claude: Very good, thank you. I just wanted to confirm that the GFSI Board is keeping the door open for you. … We are very much looking forward to (working) with the IAF to support that Race to the Top. And come World Accreditation Day … we will be making a lot of noise.

Get ready to participate in this year’s World Accreditation Day campaign and plan to tweet us at @myGFSI with the role accreditation plays in keeping food safe. Be sure to include #GFSI and #WAD2020 hashtags. We invite you to engage with us on our Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn and subscribe to GFSI News to make sure you do not miss a thing!

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