The CEO of US retail giant Wegmans Food Markets, Danny Wegman, spoke today at the CGF Global Summit on how GFSI is providing local solutions for a global food supply. He praised the work of the industry-led Global Food Safety Initiative, pointing to the benefits for large and small companies, and ultimately, consumers. Even governments, he explained, are collaborating more and more with GFSI to adopt and leverage industry best practice.
Danny Wegman was addressing a full house at the 61st Global Summit of The Consumer Goods Forum, which is taking place in Berlin from the 21st to 23rd of June. The event has brought together over 1,000 delegates from top-level management of the world-wide consumer goods business network under the theme of Global Learnings from Local Success.
Danny Wegman summed up GFSI by saying "It all started with a vision: safe food for consumers, everywhere. A shared vision. And a realisation that the whole industry needed to work together to make that happen."
Industry leaders joined together to create GFSI in 2000. To go about working towards such a bold vision, Wegman explained, GFSI set itself a mission - to provide continuous improvement in food safety management systems around the world.
Advancing Harmonisation While Raising the Bar
Today’s food supply is global and today’s consumer has a right to safe food no matter where in the world they live. And food businesses need to adhere to the same high standards no matter where in the world they operate. The Consumer Goods Forum, the global network behind GFSI, leads this work with its members, true to its vision of Better Lives Through Better Business. Wegman stated that Wegmans Food Markets is proud to contribute to this critical work, with Danny Wegman himself serving as member of the CGF Board of Directors and co-sponsor to the GFSI Board, where Gillian Kelleher actively participates as Vice Chair.
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"Food safety isn't competitive," Wegman said. "Everyone helps each other raise the bar." He touched on how GFSI drives this movement with extensive collaborative work on benchmarking and harmonisation." Harmonisation starts with a common understanding of what constitutes good food safety practices. That’s why the GFSI community started by establishing a set of food safety requirements that operations must meet - the GFSI Benchmarking Requirements. This enables GFSI to compare established standards and systems.
Nine certification programme owners (CPOs) currently benefit from “GFSI recognition”. Wegman explained how this fosters mutual acceptance within the industry and reduces inefficiencies. And because it’s so widely recognised in the global marketplace, he likened it to a food safety passport, facilitating business and international trade.
Capability Building for Food Safety
Wegman stressed that GFSI benefits operations of all sizes in the food industry - not just the big ones. The reality is that not all food operations are in a position to comply with the GFSI requirements right away. For companies with less mature food safety systems, GFSI developed the Global Markets Programme.
In a great example of the benefits for small businesses, Walter explained via video how he leveraged GFSI for local - and global - success: "GFSI Helped Us Achieve a Big Dream – To Export our Product to 5 Continents" #GFSIwebseries
That’s just one example of operations benefiting from this capability building programme around the world, Wegman said. GFSI's Global Markets Programme helps these companies to meet the requirements of their customers, while providing an opportunity to supply safe food to local and global markets. At the same time, it is helping to improve food safety practices across geographies. It’s truly a win-win for suppliers, buyers, government and above all, consumers.
Public-private Collaboration and Partnerships
Wegman then went on to discuss collaboration, saying that none of this work would be as far-reaching and impactful without GFSI’s third focus - that of public-private partnerships. That’s because in today’s interconnected world, multi-stakeholder collaboration is needed to truly make a difference across global supply chains, he said.
GFSI is leading a growing dialogue with regulators and governments to share the achievements of the private sector and to promote recognition by regulators of private sector food safety assessments. GFSI has developed agreements with governments including Canada, China, the Netherlands, and Mexico. Currently in discussions with the United States; pilot in regards to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a sweeping food reform affecting business inside and outside the US. With the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), GFSI has launched a far-reaching capability building programme in several countries.
Perhaps the most exciting sign that this is moving forward? GFSI recently hosted a “G30 of food safety” where 30 governments and multilateral organisations came together to discuss collaboration and harmonisation.
If you're not already a part of this great work, you're probably wondering how you can get involved now, Wegman joked with the audience. Any CGF member with food or beverage activities can engage with GFSI in several different ways.
You can benefit from implementing GFSI in your supply chains and making sure your buyers are requesting GFSI-recognised certifications. No matter where in the world you operate, when you are working with smaller companies, keep in mind that GFSI’s Global Markets Programme can help you to train and improve the quality of your supply chain.
GFSI is a multi-stakeholder collaboration. It’s important to recognise that while GFSI is funded by The CGF, it is whole food safety community that contributes to GFSI by sending experts to invest time and knowledge in GFSI’s Local Groups and Technical Working Groups.
Wegman concluded by thanking his friends and colleagues for lending their support to the 16th Global Food Safety Conference which took place this spring in Houston. The fact that it drew 1,200 delegates from 56 countries is a great testimony to the global reach and the food safety commitment of industry worldwide. Now’s the time to let us know if you want to be on stage at next year’s edition – taking place in Tokyo!
He finished with a simple statement: "We join up leaders with a shared vision. Safe food for consumers, everywhere. Thank you."
Follow #CGFSummit for more talks this week from FMCG leaders with purpose and stay tuned to GFSI News.