The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) launched at the turn of the millennium in response to growing consumer concern for food safety. Bringing together key players in the food industry, including retailers, manufacturers, and food service companies, stakeholders have worked together to share knowledge, develop higher standards, and design new best practices to improve food safety around the world.

In 2023, the GFSI’s mission is as relevant as ever. A key part of the organization’s work is their annual conference. The 2023 session was held April 24 to 27 in Atlanta and proved to be their “best yet.” This year’s theme was “Delivering Safe Food in Turbulent Times: The Need for Agility & Resilience,” crafted in response to the unprecedented disruption of the food supply chain from COVID-19, followed by the crisis of the war in Ukraine, and, increasingly, the impact of climate change and extreme weather events.

The AIB International team were among the conference’s 700 attendees on site to learn from the successes of other stakeholders and discuss a path forward for the industry in the coming years. Here are the top food safety news to take away from the event:

1.Food safety requires forward-thinking trade

On April 26, Codex Alimentarius Chairperson Steve Wearne took the stage to honor the immense impact the Codex and the World Trade Organization had on improving food safety over the decades. For 60 years, the Codex Alimentarius has helped shape global guidelines and codes of conduct for international food trade, including ethics and fairness in exchanges, dedication to quality, and practices that ensure food safety. The Codex has been instrumental in building the infrastructure for the global food supply chain we enjoy today.

Wearne’s remarks kicked off discussion among attendees about the need for even greater levels of cooperation between global stakeholders to navigate the rapidly changing landscape. Issues like the quality of water, soil, and air, biodiversity loss, and food shortages are quickly becoming prominent enough to affect the current framework of rules. Stakeholders need to come together and begin creating order out of the potential chaos that can impact trade this decade.

2. We need a consensus language for global standards

On the third day of the conference, Douglas Gayeton, chief investigator and co-founder of The Lexicon, took the stage to discuss his organization’s work on improving food safety communication. Since its inception, the US-based NGO has used a variety of storytelling and mobilization strategies to tackle the greatest challenges of the food industry. Recently, Gayeton and team developed the Foodicon, an easy-to-understand, universal language for agri-food systems.

As more and more markets join the global food supply chain, complete with their own languages, perceptions, and cultural norms, it’s increasingly important to ensure all stakeholders discuss the same practices, standards, ingredients, and other critical attributes when communicating. The “foodicons” will help stakeholders across the supply chain better understand the food they’re interacting with throughout its lifecycle. Manufacturers, vendors, and suppliers alike will benefit from greater traceability, food literacy, and transparency.

3. Climate change is the largest emerging risk to global food safety

One of the biggest themes of food safety news hanging over the conference was the growing threat of climate change. Concern weaved into discussions about global trade, and even defined much of the dialogue about food safety challenges in Africa. During the final day of GFSI 2023, leaders from the African retail, regulatory, and economics sector discussed challenges of ensuring food safety and quality throughout the continent, as well as issues around both importing and exporting goods. Climate change is already having the largest impact on Africa, and the supply chain adaptations forged there could shape food safety practices around the world for years to come.

Stay up to date on the latest food safety news

The world is changing quickly, and so are the challenges and opportunities surrounding the food supply chain. This year’s GFSI Conference in Atlanta proved to be a valuable touchpoint for leaders throughout the industry to discuss challenges and shape collective strategies moving forward. AIB International is constantly reshaping its own programs, services, and strategies to stay in alignment with the global community and constantly improve food safety standards. Want to stay up to date on the latest food safety news? Subscribe to our newsletter, today.

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