GFSI Conference: Day Two Review
Following an insightful opening day, the second day of the GFSI Conference, taking place in Nice, France, is typically the busiest day of proceedings, and this year was no different, with Wednesday’s schedule including more than a dozen discussion topics and and an awards ceremony.
The day’s first plenary was dedicated to the Global Markets Programme, GFSI’s capability building programme for food operations on the path to certification. Mike Taylor, serving as moderator, lauded the programme for “creating a group of ambassadors for GFSI around the world”.
Commenting on this year’s group of winners in the GFSI Global Markets Awards, GFSI Director Véronique Discours-Buhot added, “You fill us with your energy, and there's no better proof that what we do every day is important and useful.”
Transforming Incidents Into Learning Opportunities
The second plenary of the dayopened with a summary of the results of the DNV-GL survey, which was answered by over 1,600 food safety professionals. The 91% of respondents who said that digital technologies do not play a major role in their operations could have learned something from this tech-savvy session.
Steven Hather, Director of The Recall Institute, began with an overview of food recalls from the past 12 months, with a map that illuminated their global spread. Today, companies can use social media to influence perception and carry messages through what Hather called the ‘crisis storm’.
Subsequent speakers presented case studies on ways that technology, including social media, influenced more recent food safety incidents.
Jerome Combrisson from Mars Global Services spoke of a devastating food safety incident: the listeria outbreak in South Africa, which was finally traced and brought to an end with the help of whole genome sequencing.
Elsewhere, Howard Popoola, Vice President of Corporate Food Technology and Regulatory Compliance at Kroger, described the methods the United States’ largest supermarket chain used to mitigate the recent outbreak of E. coli in romaine lettuce, including dealing with media and regulators.
Finally, Julie Pierce of the UK FSA, who has led the charge on bringing her organisation into the digital age, brought a regulator’s perspective to the conversation.
Her team’s projects include social media ‘listening’ campaigns that track mentions of symptoms on platforms like Twitter and Youtube to map the spread of pathogens and risk assessment models that incorporate data from a wide variety of sources. Julie agrees that regulators should work with industry for the benefit of both.
“It has to be an organisation like GFSI who can convene the conversation, do the collaboration, get everybody broadly involved in this together,” she said.
Digging Into The Details
The plenaries were far from the only delegate opportunities during the programming-packed conference day. The morning started early with four concurrent special sessions, each focused on one technological solution that is changing the way food works.
Blockchain remained a hot topic — in one session, representatives from Greenfence demonstrated how organisations can apply their blockchain solution in ‘just 15 minutes’, while in a nearby room leaders from companies including METRO, Danone, Carrefour and Tyson offered their own testimonies on the efficacy of blockchain and other technologies to improve traceability and transparency.
A total of six breakout sessions offered another opportunity to delve deeper into the details of some of the topics that the plenaries discuss more broadly. The sessions took a solutions-based approach to the theme of emerging challenges and the future of food safety, with experts proposing measures such as third-party certification, data management and updated microbiological methodologies.
The day also included four tech talks, which took place during afternoon networking breaks, before delegates strolled down the Promenade des Anglais (or took the shuttle bus) for the official dinner at the iconic Le Negresco.
© 2019 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.