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Fighting Threats to Food Safety and Security Across the Globe

Erica Sheward

Director, Global Food Safety Initiative

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), an organization dedicated to ensuring global food safety and security, will release the latest version of its benchmarking requirements at its upcoming conference in February.

Erica Sheward, director of GSFI, says that the new benchmarking requirements (version 2020) will address many emerging risks facing the global food supply chain. “We have lots of insights based on scientific evidence around things that really need to be challenged and supported,” Sheward says.

Updated standards

Among the new risks addressed in the updated standard are the prevalence of food fraud and the culture of dedication to food safety within food supply companies. “The culture of an organization and its employees is absolutely a critical success factor in delivering safe food,” Sheward says. “Everybody that’s involved in the business needs to be culturally committed and understand what role they play in delivering safe food.”

GFSI is thinking ahead to future risks to food safety as well. “We’re thinking very much at the moment about climate change and the impact of climate change on commodities and risk,” Sheward says. With rising sea levels and increasingly hostile weather patterns, agricultural land will be subject to greater risk, particularly for popular commodities such as coffee, tea, and cocoa. “These are commodities that we know are going to be subject to some very challenging climate change issues.”

Consumer behavior

Other risks to the global food supply chain are driven by consumers. Many of the food supplier businesses and partners of GFSI see the fast emergence of innovative, novel foods as a danger to the supply chain. “The environment in which novel foods are being introduced into mainstream products is a challenge for food suppliers because they would do that at a much slower pace than some of the edgy, innovative startup businesses that are challenging them.”

Typical ways in which foods are kept safe — additives used to increase shelf life, for example — are now undesirable for consumers. “People want natural foods,” Sheward says. “They don’t want to see rows and rows of words on a label that they don’t understand.”

The future of food

Suppliers must find new ways to ensure food safety while meeting consumer demands, but changes are happening so quickly the safety standards struggle to keep up. “The innovation and the safety considerations are not aligned,” Sheward says.

While GFSI is celebrating 20 years this year, its upcoming conference is not just a celebration. “Whilst we are focusing very much on celebrating our longevity and celebrating our success, we are very keen to ensure that people don’t get the sense that we’re feeling complacent,” Sheward says. “Quite the contrary. We’ve never needed to be more relevant, agile, and determined to drive excellence in food safety forward.”

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