Returning to the prominent topic of sustainability, Day Three of the GFSI Conference began with an opening plenary titled ‘Breaking the Silos Between Food Safety and Sustainability’. First to present during the morning was Jorge Ortega, General Directorate of Health and Agricultural Production at the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA), who provided an overview of how the Spanish government was working to blend sustainability and food safety.
Ortega said that the government’s policies are guided by international regulations from the EU, such as the Common Agricultural Policy and EU Food Law. Initiatives carried out by the Spanish government include the digital registration of livestock across the country, enabling a high level of traceability, which is most useful in instances of disease outbreak.
Returning to the link between sustainability and safe food, Ortega said, “food safety is widely accepted, but with sustainability, some people are still reflecting and thinking about it,” adding that there is much work to be done, especially in reference to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Analysing The Supply Chain
Speaking next, Raquel Medeiros, head of food safety – chemical contaminants and packaging at Nestlé, discussed some initiatives carried out by the consumer goods giant, as well as outlining its sustainability agenda. Medeiros analysed an issue encountered by Nestlé that related to both sustainability and food safety.
In Brazil, approximately 0.5% of the milk the group produced there in 2017, which equalled 10 million litres, had to be thrown out due to the presence of unwanted antibiotics in the milk. Having performed a review of the food safety measures in place, as well as increasing training for its farmers, that figure now lies at 0.07%, a massive saving in food waste.
Medeiros concluded her presentation by sharing what she believes to be the meaning of food quality as redefined by consumers as ”good for the planet, good for the people that produce the food, and safe for people to eat.” Medeiros also called for “harmonisation in regulation framework”, a common rallying call during the week.
Next, Annelise Fenger, deputy director general of the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA), provided a perspective on food safety and sustainability from both Denmark and the EU.
Amongst her points was the call to reexamine regulations around protein in animal feed, with Fenger making the case for insect protein to be added to the safe feed list across the entirety of the EU and the world. Included in the Danish approach to sustainability within food safety are strong investments in the ingredient sector in a bid to determine how ingredients can contribute to more sustainable food production.
Sustainability And Food Waste
Rounding out the morning’s session, the Consumer Goods Forum’s environmental sustainability director Ignacio Gavilan explained the organisation’s stance on sustainability and food waste. He warned of the need to be cautious, noting the introduction of a ‘sniff test’ for milk in some retailers replacing best before dates. Whilst not opposed to the reductions in food waste as a result, Gavilan declared, “we can never compromise food safety, this is the number one rule.”
Areas Gavilan suggested one of the areas for improvement in sustainability whilst maintaining food safety was in packaging, and he cited the use of plastic-heavy polystyrene trays versus more sustainable barrier vacuum packages, which also provide a longer shelf-life.
Gavilan added that the next few years will see a lot of changes to the products sold in stores, and mentioned the need to “push the consumer and inform them” about possible changes, such as deposit return schemes becoming standard.
The last segment of GFSI 2022 featured presentations from two major food safety compliant businesses, with IKEA and Carnival Corporation, represented by Jesper Juul Andersen and Mel Skipp respectively, discussing food safety procedures across their operations. IKEA, which sells one billion of its famous meatballs annually, has applied similar business models to its food business as its furniture business, with all of its products focusing on form, sustainability, low price, quality, and function.
Andersen added to a common sentiment across the week, saying that he was “very happy we've reached a point where food safety is everyone's business.”
Mel Skipp of Carnival Corporation, the largest cruise fleet in the world, provided an interesting perspective on the group’s “floating cities”. On board its cruise ships, chefs prepare items such as bread in rigorously maintained kitchens due to the many inspections carried out in most countries they dock at.
As Skipp put it, he doesn’t mind these audits as he’s not paying for them, but they mean high standards of food safety need to be ensured across the fleet. During cruises, all illnesses suffered by the passengers are recorded with the ship’s medical team, and in the case of foodborne illnesses, the medical team can quickly trace the source of contamination.
In the closing speech from GFSI’s chair Erica Sheward, she revealed that due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2023 event will not take place in Singapore as planned, with an as-yet unnamed location in the US taking its place, meaning Singapore will have to wait until 2024.
Despite this location change, this year's in-person conference provided some much-needed confidence in the live event sector – in the words of Sheward, “we really are back.”