Certification and Social Media – The future?

Those were two of the issues that WalMart’s Frank Yiannis’ highlighted in his closing speech on the final day of the GFSI Global Food Safety Conference. From a conference that featured a lot of fantastic presentations and sessions, Frank’s was definitely one of the highlights.

On certification, Frank let the audience know that the time was coming when certification would have to be present throughout the supply chain, right down to the farmers of the world. This statement was sure to leave some of the audience with serious cost concerns, “How much will that cost us?” “Who is going to pay for that?”

For the organisations in the room who have been through a food safety scare, experienced product recalls, lost market share, seen their share value plummet and then seen it all traced back to a small supplier at the very beginning of the chain, the questions were most likely very different ones; “Will this lead to restored stakeholder trust in our brand?” “How soon can we get started?”

On social media, Frank Yiannis talked about the increasing importance that social media holds for the food sector. He focused on the “real time” communications that social media is driving, alerting the world much quicker to potential food safety issues. He touched on blogs, email communication and search engine activity as tools that will, in the future, be a crucial part of crisis communications and procedures for the food sector. That sentiment was shared by many of the delegates, with a session on day three being dedicated to social media and food safety.

Now that the 700 + delegates have gone back to their offices around the world, we will see what really happens across the food sector. Will social media become a significant part of the way that food sector organisations monitor their potential risks and interact with their stakeholders? With consumers trusting independent voices over corporate voices, will bloggers and online media become more influential in the world of food safety and food sector brand reputation? Frank did mention that he was on Twitter, where you can also find the GFSI and LRQAFood. Visit www.twitter.com and type in food safety in the search bar. You will quickly see that the conversations are already happening.

Will 3rd party certification be driven through the entire supply chain by global retailers and manufacturers? The answer might already be there, in the form of the Global Food Safety Initiative and their efforts. The GFSI and its’ members have done outstanding work over the past few years, including the implementation of FSSC 22000 and the ongoing food safety standards harmonisation process.  If the food sector achieves The GFSI slogan, “certified once, accepted everywhere”, it would be a milestone that the food sector could be proud of. And one that other sectors are sure to follow with great interest.

You can find out more about LRQA's food month activities at www.food.lrqa.com

Read the previous blog and listen to the 'food month' podcasts