2024 GFSI Conference Explores The Importance Of Food Safety In An Evolving World

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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2024 GFSI Conference Explores The Importance Of Food Safety In An Evolving World

The 2024 edition of the GFSI Conference took place in Singapore last week, focusing on ways for the food safety community to tackle industry challenges and delve into innovative approaches that enhance food safety capabilities across the entire supply chain.

Featuring the theme 'Food Safety – Meeting the Needs of our Evolving World', the conference saw executives from firms including Mondelēz International, Mars, Inc., PepsiCo, Nestlé, Walmart, The Coca-Cola Company, General Mills, Kroger, Danone and many others take to the stage, with over 500 industry leaders in attendance.

Day One

As Erica Sheward, director of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) at The Consumer Goods Forum put it on Day One, “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.”

Among the highlights of the first day was a keynote speech from Vipul Chawla, croup CEO of FairPrice Group, who explored the importance of collaboration and sustainability.

“Incorporating sustainability in business is no longer a nice to have," he explained. "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."


Other sessions on the first day included a discussion on 'Unleashing the Power of Technology for Food Safety Management', a panel discussion on 'Food Safety in the Green Transition', a panel on “Digitising Food Safety: Navigating Challenges and Digital Upskillings in the Industry’, and an analysis of 'Navigating the Intersection of Food Safety & Plastics', featuring representatives from Health Canada, PepsiCo and the CGF Coalition on Plastic Waste.

With regard to the latter, panellists discussed the importance of harmonising global regulations on plastic recycling and establishing robust food safety management frameworks within companies to ensure the safety of PET, agreeing that plastic waste poses a global challenge that necessitates collaboration and unified regulations on food contact for recycled plastics.

Day Two

Day Two opened with a presentation from Steve Wearne, Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission Food Standards Agency (CAC), who shared his thoughts on collaborative initiatives being undertaken in Africa that will empower small and medium food business operators.

“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," he said.


Sessions on the second day included a discussion on 'Food Safety & Navigating the Tech Frontier: Regulatory Insights from the Asia-Pacific Region', analysis of the topic 'Strengthening Global Capabilities for Food Safety Risk Assessment in the Green Transition', and a panel discussion on 'The Role of AI in Tackling Food Fraud', which showcased the role that artificial intelligence is playing in food safety management.

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

Elsewhere, a discussion on 'Supporting Business in Building Food Safety Capabilities' emphasised the importance of collaboration and innovation in the food safety industry, while an eye-opening presentation from Professor Patrick Wall, Professor of Public Health, University College Dublin, explored the importance of an approach to nutrition that is age, gender and lifestyle appropriate.

“60 is the new 30, and 90 is the new 60," he explained. "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."


Day Three

Day Three commenced with a plenary session from Vikas Gupta, global head of R&D at Tata Consumer Products, who addressed why food safety needs to be a "strategic priority" for businesses in Asia and further afield.

"Food Safety culture has to be embedded in corporate culture and decision-making," he said.

Other sessions on the day included a panel discussion led by Mary Gertz, chief food safety and quality officer at Yum! Brands on the topic of 'Remote Auditing in Food Safety, an eye-opening presentation from consultant Nigel Sutton on the topic 'This Is For You – Turning Stories Into Actions', and a discussion on 'Foodborne Pathogens as Adulterants' led by Julian M. Cox, Associate Dean (International – Emerging Markets), Faculty of Engineering, University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney).

“All of us in this room, among our family, our friends, our communities can communicate what we know in bite sized chunks of consumable terms accessible to make sure people grow in their food safety knowledge," he said.


It was then up to the GFSI's Erica Sheward and Dirk Van de Put, CGF Co-Chair and chairman and chief executive of Mondelēz International to close proceedings, inviting those present to continue to share their "pride and positivity" at next year's GFSI Conference, which is set to take place in Dublin, Ireland.

More information on the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) can be found at The GFSI is a Coalition of Action of The Consumer Goods Forum.

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