GFSI 2020: The Food Safety Race to the Top
The Global Food Safety Initiative celebrated its 20 year anniversary last week in Seattle, Washington. Attendees flocked to the event from around the world to not only wish GFSI a Happy Birthday, but also to collaborate on issues of food safety and continue building consumer trust in the global food supply chain.
What’s in store for GFSI in the next 20 years? The organization is adopting a “Race to the Top” position that is proactive about advancing food safety progress. GFSI Director Erica Sheward explained, “In broad terms, we are moving to ensure that we all achieve explicit oversight of what good looks like.” She implored businesses to keep food safety goals top of mind in order to actively work towards a “world where all food is safe.” GFSI announced it has also published resources on new benchmarking requirements, as well as documentation on what’s changing in 2020.
Food Safety Leadership
In the New Era of Smarter Food Safety, there is growing consensus around what next-gen food safety should look like. Coalitions of action must be driven by Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and embodied by businesses from the top down. Speakers at the GFSI conference focused heavily on execution, the maturity of technologies and leadership. Many discussions were geared towards creating leadership buy-in and providing practical models to help push food businesses towards being able to realize consumer expectations when it comes to food transparency.
Kerry Group Executive Director Edmond Scanlon and Group CEO Hugo Gutierrez discussed the importance of leadership with Wegmans Chairman Danny Wegman and moderator Femi Oke. Kerry Group leadership explained that in a world where consumers want products that holistically combine health, safety, sustainability, transparency and quality, C-Suite leadership has an opportunity to set standards internally, and communicate these standards to the public, using their platform to amplify and mirror a food safety culture that resonates with people today. Industry leadership has an opportunity to add a human touch to the way brands enact consumer protection and education.
Food Safety Technology
Technology is the elephant in the room when it comes to advancing food safety. How do companies use food safety software? How can brands leverage traceability data in a way that addresses consumer concerns and mitigates risks proactively? How prepared is the industry to deploy RFID at scale? And is supply chain blockchain viable in the near term?
In a session between Testo, Off the Grid and Ahold Delhaize, operational visibility was front and center, with a call for brands to adopt food software that increases efficiency and extends transparency upstream to retail. Ahold’s Vice President of Quality Assurance Larry Kohl discussed how to close the recall communications loop by implementing recall notification systems that cascade all the way to shopper cardholders. However, such exciting advancements in targeted consumer messaging requires incremental food safety technology adoption and fail-safe data practices.
In a session on GS1 standards and traceability, Wendy’s VP of Quality Assurance Jorge Hernandez underscored how critical it is for data to be verifiable. With a complex supply chain and suppliers of varying size and technological maturity, Hernandez continued that there needs to be a greater focus on how to support small suppliers. GS1’s Senior VP of Community Engagement Siobhan O’Bara, Golden State Foods’ Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Bob Wolpert and Ahold’s Larry Kohl also participated in the panel. Kohl said he was keen to see the industry become more advanced, given the lag in technology adoption still facing the global food supply. He continued that technologies like RFID will be a long but fruitful journey, which will help improve visibility and reduce food waste. Speakers in the session agreed: when it comes to technology, the question of “what problem are you trying to solve” should always be the guiding principle.
Next Steps: Food Safety Standards
Regardless of which technologies traceability applications are built on, the necessity of adopting standards was a common refrain. With case studies showing the tremendous benefits of investing in GS1 standards, it’s easy to see how far we’ve come in the last 10 years. However, consumer expectations of traceability are still far above where most brands are today in terms of capability, Jorge Hernandez noted in the session on GS1 standards. Hernandez acknowledged the excitement around, and potential of, blockchain for traceability, but emphasized a need to show companies how to build towards implementation over the next 3–5 years. If a company hasn’t taken the initial steps to traceability, adopting standards should be their first order of operations. Golden State Foods’ Bob Wolpert echoed these sentiments, putting greater emphasis on the software built on top of database technologies, and pushing the industry to build towards data quality and consistency.
The FoodLogiQ team would like to wish GFSI a happy 20th birthday, and thank the organization for the tremendous work they do to advance food safety and advocate for consumers.