When over 900 individuals from 50 countries descend on Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for a conference, you know you have a hot topic. “Food Safety: A Shared Responsibility,” the theme of the 2015 Global Food Safety Conference, emphasized the truly global nature of the food supply chain, not only by bringing so many people together but also by fostering collaborative opportunities in food safety management.

Food Safety Magazine, media sponsor and participant at the conference, asked select participants what they felt were the key takeaway messages from the event and what they enjoyed best.

“This conference drives home the fact that, globally, we are all dependent upon each other for a dependable, safe food supply chain and we must be vigilant and continue to learn and improve our processes in order to ensure food safety for the future,” says Craig S. Parker, regional vice president, sales, Steton.

Nelly Lam, executive officer, Innovation and Technology Development Office, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, agrees, noting, “Food safety problems see no boundaries and their management requires concerted, proactive efforts from private-public partnerships. Sharing and extending our knowledge and experience into the improvement of food web management and the capacity building of small- to medium-size enterprises in various countries will contribute towards the sustainable development of public food health management.”

“The best part about this year’s conference was experiencing all the energy, enthusiasm and passion for food safety among attendees. The theme of achieving food safety through shared responsibility was truly evident throughout the week as attendees from across the supply chain collaborated on important issues such as food fraud, standards and managing food safety risk,” remarks Dr. Ruth Petran, vice president of food safety at Ecolab. “Safe food is expected around the world, but can only be achieved through this kind of collaborative work. It was exciting to see true engagement and commitment from all parties at the conference, including government, academia, international organizations and retail, manufacturing and foodservice companies.”

The GFSI Global Markets Programme was also a highlight with many attendees, which was (is) designed to help companies work toward achieving GFSI certification under a GFSI scheme of their choosing. Bill Bremer, principal, Kestrel Management, notes that “For countries, regions and organizations to be able to achieve GFSI-level certification, they need to establish the building blocks of food safety, local regulatory compliance, industry standards and global regulatory to best achieve and reach GFSI. The position of the emerging Global Markets focus is the GFSI’s means of accomplishing this as well as regional and country GFSI information days.”

Will Fisher, executive director of the Institute of Food Technologists Global Food Traceability Center, and moderator of the breakout session “From Traceability to Trust” at the conference, expresses that “This is the one place where [the top key stakeholders and decision makers] can get together to share thoughts, what keeps them up at night and best practices. The speakers were very knowledgeable and had great content to share. And the networking sessions allowed more informal discussions. My top takeaway was the high level of interest in traceability related to food safety [and] how important it was in overall chain management including sustainability and overall transparency.”

Echoing others’ sentiments about the global nature of food safety, Rena Pierami, vice president, technical services, Merieux NutriSciences, and member of the GFSI Guidance Document Working Group, emphasizes that “food safety, and how to enhance it using consistent tools and processes, is a global cause and the GFSI and the Global Food Safety Conference are clearly a venue for achieving this. How else can one explain having over 900 attendees from so many regions of the world at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur?”

Many participants note the outstanding networking opportunities at this meeting. Naghmeh Raiyat, global business manager – food, systems and services certification, SGS, remarks that she “enjoyed networking with colleagues from across the industry. It was particularly good this year to see so many delegates representing the food industry from the APAC [Asian Pacific] region. This is a strong and growing food region thanks to the number of strong emerging economies and also where so many key suppliers of ingredients and raw materials reside.”

In the closing plenary session, GFSC Programme Committee members Cindy Jiang, global food safety officer, McDonald’s, and Cenk Gurol, Aeon, offered their “Top 8 Takeaways from GFSC 2015:”  

            8. You guessed it: Food safety is a “shared responsibility”

            7. Collaboration is key: No one can do it alone. Through public-private partnerships, cross-industry global collaboration—we can get this right!

            6. Food safety is a noncompetitive issue. When it comes to food safety, we all win or lose together as a society.

            5. How to strengthen food safety culture from top to bottom.

            4. Consumer trust is linked with food safety. To improve it requires we all work together as a food safety community.

            3. The Global Markets Programme as the answer to capacity building needs and market access.

            2. GFSI-benchmarked schemes all meet requirements defined in GFSI Guidance Document.

            1. The ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] region—a crucial link in the food safety web. How we can work together in the region. What role this region plays in developing food safety.

No matter where you are in the food supply chain, you share in the responsibility for food safety, whether growing, producing, transporting or selling food or preparing meals, we’re all in this together. Or as Cindy Jiang put it so well on day one of the conference “none of us is as good as all of us.”

Food Safety Magazine thanks those named above for contributing their time and thoughts to our wrap up of this event.