The Think Tank on the Future of Food Safety Auditing was established in August 2023, recognizing the urgent need for innovation and strategic insight in food safety auditing. It concluded its work in April 2024. 

The authors' May 9 session at the Food Safety Summit in Rosemont, Illinois will reveal the story of the Think Tank, highlighting its objectives, methodologies, and the significant steps made toward transforming the realm of food safety auditing.

The Think Tank was born from a collective desire to fundamentally enhance food safety auditing. With the primary goal of conducting rigorous, independent research and analysis on pivotal issues within the field, the initiative aimed to inspire and empower stakeholders and governing bodies with the knowledge and insights needed to drive meaningful change. The formation of the Think Tank provided a unified platform for voices across the spectrum of food safety stakeholders, all sharing a joint commitment to shaping the future of food safety auditing.

The more than 30 members of the Think Tank hailed from 18 different countries on six continents and represented over 25 years of experience, on average. They come from from the food and beverage industry, scheme owners, and certification bodies; some work as freelance auditors or consultants, while others work with renowned universities and intergovernmental organizations.

Our approach was methodical and inclusive, designed to unearth the core challenges and opportunities within food safety auditing. The work of the mission included:

  1. We commenced with a thorough SWOT analysis, identifying the current food safety auditing landscape's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This foundational step indicated a comprehensive understanding of the existing context and its nuances.
  2. Through collaborative brainstorming sessions, we delved into the potential root causes of the most pressing issues that were identified. This process ensured that our strategies and solutions addressed the underlying factors contributing to these challenges.
  3. With a deep understanding of the root causes, we proposed various solutions, recommendations, and pathways for further exploration. These proposals addressed the critical issues head-on, allowing us to focus on sustainable and impactful changes.

To streamline our efforts and enhance our focus, we categorized our proposed solutions and recommendations under five main themes: governance, requirements and reporting, profession, digital transformation, and mindset. This thematic approach allowed for the emergence of targeted and coherent strategies.

The collective efforts of the Think Tank will culminate in several vital achievements, notably influencing the trajectory of food safety auditing:

  1. Whitepaper development: One of our primary outcomes was creating a comprehensive whitepaper encapsulating our research, findings, and recommendations. This publicly available document, to be published in Q2 2024, will serve as a roadmap for stakeholders and governing bodies, offering them the insights needed to effectively shape the future of food safety auditing.
  2. Enhanced governance: We hope our recommendations will contribute to a deeper understanding and reevaluation of governance structures within food safety auditing. By advocating for more robust and agile governance models, we aim to ensure that the field remains adaptive and responsive to emerging challenges and technologies.
  3. Elevating professional standards: The Think Tank's focus on the profession led to proposals to enhance food safety auditors' skill sets, training, and qualification requirements while promoting the auditing career. These recommendations are pivotal in ensuring that auditors are well-equipped to navigate the complexities of the modern food supply chain.
  4. Advocating for digital transformation: Recognizing the potential of digital technologies to revolutionize food safety auditing, our recommendations under the digital transformation theme aim to accelerate the adoption of innovative tools and methodologies. 
  5. Shifting mindsets: Perhaps one of the most profound impacts of the Think Tank is the emphasis on mindset change. By advocating for a culture of continuous improvement, learning, and collaboration, we aim to foster an environment where innovation and excellence in food safety auditing are encouraged and ingrained.

The Think Tank on the Future of Food Safety Auditing represents a pivotal step in the quest for a safer, more transparent food supply chain. Our collective efforts, rigorous research, and strategic recommendations have laid the groundwork for transformative changes in food safety auditing. As our whitepaper will influence policies and practices, the vision of a more robust, efficient, and innovative auditing landscape comes closer. The journey ahead is promising, and with continued collaboration and commitment, we will continue to shape a future where food safety is not just a compliance requirement and a license to operate, but also a shared value and a testament to our dedication to continuous improvement and safer food.

The Think Tank on the Future of Food Safety Auditing is not just about charting the future; it is about creating it together. Join us at the Food Safety Summit on May 9 to be part of this exciting journey, to share your perspectives, and to contribute to a safer, more transparent, and more sustainable food system for generations to come. 

Your journey to the future of food safety auditing starts here, and we cannot wait to meet you at the Food Safety Summit as a significant step toward our collective goal.