In London, Amsterdam and around the world, February is Food Month

LRQA Food blog from Cor Groenveld

There are two very important food safety conferences this month, one in Amsterdam (31st January - 1st February) and the other one in London (16th February - 18th February). I will be presenting at both of the events for LRQA.

These two events highlight the fact that food safety is still the number one priority in the food supply chain. The people attending both events are the individuals responsible for food safety in organisations across the food supply chain. They are the ones who are working hard to minimise food safety hazards and risks in the supply chain. The European Food Manufacturing and Safety Forum in Amsterdam will also cover other risk areas, including sustainability and corporate responsibility. The nice thing is that when a food company has a solid and a robust management system it cannot only cover food safety issues but it can also cover other risk areas like environmental concerns and corporate responsibility. I think this conference is a unique platform where people from the whole food supply chain are able to network with each other, to learn from each other. So also for us, LRQA, it’s very important to meet those people and to make sure that we show them how we handle and cover these issues with our certification and audit services.

The London event is the biggest global food safety conference of the year. The GFSI, (www.mygfsi.com) Global Food Safety Initiative will be holding its 11th annual conference. They are expecting over 650 delegates from around the globe. The GFSI was initiated 11 years ago by the large retail organisations. At the moment GFSI is not only retailers it’s a big network of all kinds of stakeholders in the supply chain. So it involves retailers, manufacturers, certification bodies and accreditation bodies. The main thing they do, they benchmark certification schemes. They have a set of rules for certification schemes, called “the guidance document.” You can download them for free on their website. They have benchmarked a number of food safety certification schemes, and have given a number of those official GFSI approval, or recognition.

When the GFSI was launched, their slogan was ‘Certified Once Accepted Everywhere’, that meant that if a food company was certified against one of the recognised schemes then all the retailers would accept that certificate. And everyone thought ten years ago “yeah that’s great, that’s the start of harmonisation” but, unfortunately not all the retailers follow that principle.

More and more retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Metro in Germany are starting to recognise the GFSI standards across their food supply chain. A lot of retailers still choose to mandate one of the certification schemes. Longer term, I think that will change, as retailers begin to see the benefits of harmonisation. But as all of these things, it will take some time. Overall, the GFSI is doing a great job; they are a great networking organisation. They are driving the move towards harmonisation of global food safety standards.

The GFSI’s annual conference will be a great event again with all the stakeholders from the food supply chain in attendance. This year’s theme is “Developing a Food Safety Culture” and will once again feature lively, informative discussions, good meetings on how to further improve food safety in the supply chain and most importantly, how we can achieve harmonisation of certification, standards and audits.

If you are interested in either of my presentations, there is more information here on all of our food sector activities or send us an email at enquiries@lrqa.com and I will get back to you. I will also be hosting a food safety webinar on the 3rd of February.

So, with February being Food Safety Month, hope to see everyone at the Amsterdam and/or London event. Otherwise, we will be having a daily blog right here on lrqa.com for the next three weeks to keep everyone updated on the latest news and discussions around the food sector.