Industry, academics and NGOs from more than 70 countries recently gathered on Singapore to evaluate how successful a global initiative to promote food safety has been in its first year.
The Global Food Safety Partnership was conceived to find ways to target world food safety issues. Its actions are supported by a World Bank trust fund that can receive donations from public and private contributors.
It aims have been to reduce risks to consumers and businesses from food safety and increase the benefits to public health and the economy by strengthening protection mechanisms and supporting effective global supply chains.
“Food safety and food security are major priorities for governments and food companies in Asia—for both the protection of consumers and to advance trade in our region,” said Bev Postma, executive director of Food Industry Asia.
“The vast majority of food in Asia is produced by small- and medium-sized family businesses, and the Global Food Safety Partnership is the ideal platform to support training and capacity building for manufacturers, suppliers and farmers, and for supporting the public sector that supervises and regulates the global and domestic food industry.”
In its second year, the group will now focus its attention on scaling up and shaping the world’s response to food safety challenges, said Juergen Voegele, the World Bank’s director for agriculture and environmental services, who was in attendance.
“Meeting international or industry standards creates both challenges and opportunities for poor farmers and agri-businesses competing in growing markets,” he said.
“Our partners recognise that no single organisation acting alone can have the impact we all want. By building the understanding, knowledge, and motivation to fully address food safety risks, this partnership can help to decrease food-borne hazards, reduce poverty, and improve food security.”
Since its launch in December 2012, the GFSP has attracted significant contributions from the governments of Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United States, the World Bank and private companies like Mars and Waters Corporation.
“We live in a world where confidence is a key pillar of the global food system—and consumer expectations for food safety are high,” said Mary Lou Valdez of the US Food and Drug Administration, which is a partner in the group.
Financial contributions to the GFSP have so far funded a range of capacity building activities, including training modules addressing hazard analysis and critical control points at food processing plants in China, Vietnam and Malaysia, and good aquaculture practices in Indonesia.
Other activities under way include the development of training modules for chemical risk assessment, laboratory capacity and regulatory systems, and a needs assessment toolkit for capacity building that is being piloted in Zambia. All training materials will be made widely available through an open-source knowledge and learning platform that will allow for the scaling up of food safety capacity around the world.
According to Leon Bruner, chief scientist at the Grocery Manufacturers Association,the food industry’s experience must be trusted when it comes to developing and manufacturing safe products.
“To truly have a prevention based food safety system, we need a paradigm of collaboration whereby suppliers wishing to be a part of global supply chains have the capacity to provide food that meets the expectations of global customers.” he said.