The world's leading experts and decision makers sets out the direction of the concerns of food safety industry today, and what will take the stage in the near future. The goal of the conference, which this year was held in Berlin, is to challenge participants' thinking in a constantly changing world. It is simply necessary if you want to keep up with the threats that pile up in an industry where national borders are blurring and the requirement to pace is constantly increasing. More than ever there is a need for a strong response and a common global roadmap.
There were three main trends that should be highlighted at this year's conference:
Fraud food is an essential area of focus in the industry. It is the company's responsibility to ensure that there is safety at all levels - both at the suppliers of the raw materials used in production and at the logistics management. If there are toxic substances in the raw materials or packaging, it falls back on your business – that’s just how it is.
So, a risk assessment is no longer just about what can be measured and weighed in production or prevented through various security measures. Should your company deal with a supermarket chain, you must continually evaluate your company's risk of becoming a victim of fraud. You must be able to demonstrate that you have control over all of the supply chain, also - or perhaps especially - foreign producers.
The good news is that the increased focus on food fraud also leads to new, effective methods to identify the weak links. Methods that also sneaks into the standards for quality management.
Many food companies already have a contingency plan to deal with bad things in public. Several have even employees to keep an eye on what's happening on the social media - and the biggest brands like Coca Cola have entire departments around the world that are active on the social media around the clock. The consumers direct access to express themselves publicly and set an agenda is a basic condition that companies of all sizes should relate to. It requires a contingency plan and a steady hand to get mercifully through a shit storm. Storms vanish again as you know, but the damage could be irreversible if the preparation and handling has not been in order.
It was emphasized that a crisis response also involves a restoration plan. That is a plan for how the company gets rid of the scratches in the paint, which occurs when the storm rages. An important point is that adversity can actually help strengthen a brand, if handled professionally and credibly.
Big data has become a familiar buzzword for most. It is about the handling of huge amounts of data, but it is far from the whole story. Big data can bring order and insight where previously there was chaos. And the food industry can use it as an effective tool for improving food security - both preventive to anticipate the weak links and as a resource to target intervention when the injury has occurred.
At this year's conference Big data got very great attention and was described as a quantum leap in line with the telescope in the 17th century. With the telescope stargazers could suddenly see the planets that surround us and create a more accurate picture of our solar system, so the comparison is quite obvious. Big data is - and will be even more so - an important asset for our food security.
Facts about the Global Food Safety Conference
Global Food Safety Conference GFSI is an annual event that brings together over 1,000 leading food safety specialists from over 50 countries. This year’s conference was in Berlin. The aim is to promote food safety worldwide through the exchange of knowledge and experience. The conference takes place over three days with joint plenary presentations and a wide range of subject-specific sessions.