1/2016 eFOOD-Lab international 3 Globa l Food Safet y Conference 2016 “The Future of Food Safety” Kurt-Peter Raezke, Bremen, Germany What is the vision we have of food safety in the coming years and decades? asked Adjiedj Bakas, trendwatcher from the Netherlands during the annual conference of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Berlin 29 Feb. - 3 March, 2016. Approximately 1,000 participants from over 50 countries used the opportunity to exchange experiences not only on this issue. What seems so far away, is so close: Food can be largely considered as safe, even if the daily media coverage would convince us of the opposite. Of course, a 100% security is utopia and will remain so. Following the food chain from farm to fork is too complex, globally oriented and is based on different national regulations and control systems. With the vision "Safe food for consumers everywhere" the Global Food Safety Initiative takes this challenge in order to “provide continuous improvement in food safety management systems in the delivery of safe food to consumers worldwide”. With this statement we have arrived at the subject-matter of the first presentations of the GFSI Conference 2016, discussing “The Big Picture" and the very large amounts of data ("Big Data") involved. From the perspective of a retailer Olaf Koch from Metro AG presented the complex linkage of trading partners who are involved in the global supply chain and how existing data can be made useful. While traditional retail was focused on products sold to customers only, modern retail wants to know how to meet customer needs. Prof Dr Andreas Hensel, President of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Germany, completed the foregoing presentation by pointing out the daily misconceptions of consumers between perceived and real risks. The view of the scientist is contrary to the perceptions of the consumer which is very subjective and emotionally driven. The eating behavior and the hygienic conditions still represent a greater risk to public health than the level of residues found in food and beverage which should be avoided or at least minimized and normally does not have a direct impact on consumer health. The complexity and therefore vulnerability of the global food supply chain was clearly described by Professor Chris Elliot, Queen's University of Belfast, in an impressive way. The derived efforts towards more food safety represent a major challenge and the resulting problems can only be solved in partnership of the various stakeholders. Another way to increase food safety can be obtained by the analysis and interpretation of already existing data. The speakers on the topic "Big Data", from Jeffrey Welser, IBM Research, to Mike Taylor, FDA USA, have set themselves the task to organize the apparent chaos of data and to focus attention on the relationships between all of these data. An appropriate combination and interpretation of data offers a new and cost-effective alternative to the technically demanding methods of food analysis, which are costly, show a steadily decreasing working life by more recent developments and therefore major investments are required. A review of daily rapid alerts shows that analytical methods are already available to identify such health hazards. As a consequence the development of more sensitive analytical methods is not really required. An intelligent linking and interpretation of available data with the different management systems will allow us to foresee food incidents much better which is also a recommendation of the European commission. Activities and actions taken by individuals and national authorities can be fully effective only if a harmonization of world trade takes place and all involved parties speak the "same language" and look for consolidated solutions together. National governments and regulators play a vital role at this point to initiate and setup harmonized and consolidated control systems by “re-thinking the regulator in an interconnected world”, Paul Mayers, CFIA, Canada, pointed out. Interesting insights and daily challenges to ensure food safety were presented in parallel sessions in the early morning. With focus on hygiene control different possibilities for action were discussed. But which actions need to be taken if there is any health risk to the consumer? What about crisis management to inform the public in the particular case of a possible health hazard? A catalogue of measures was presented and discussed by the speakers on Wednesday morning. Today any information regarding food hazards or scandals is circulated via social media in a very short time. It is a real challenge to address objectivity on any impact on consumer health in time and to ensure that the right actions for affected consumers will be taken in order to elucidate completely and consistently, and to avoid hysteria. But not only so-called food scandals affect communication. In a digital and connected world almost everyone can upload any information via the social media or inform himself about any incidents which are very often not confirmed. Anita Scholte op Reimer from Ahold, Netherlands asked the consumer to verify the given information and to use other media and expert opinion as well. She also highlighted that nowadays the decision of the consumer which food he would like to eat is not only reduced to the service level and price offered. An increasing demand for sustainable food production can be observed, fresh and high quality food is preferred and the impact on the lifestyle of the consumer will be more important as well. Today consumers take their own decision and their rating scale and their judgment have become much more complex. It is a challenge for the food industry to meet the requirements on safe and healthy food in an appropriate manner.
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