Countdown to the Global Food Safety Conference: 2 weeks to go

LRQA’s Vincent Doumeizel on the future of food safety

In two weeks’ time hundreds of food safety professionals will meet in Berlin for the world’s biggest Food Safety conference to share knowledge and best practice and to discuss the most significant food safety risks and challenges facing the industry.

As the theme for this year’s conference is ‘The Global Food Safety Vision: Making the Change’ LRQA’s Strategic Marketing Manager Food and Beverage, Vincent Doumeizel, shares his thoughts on the future of food safety.

Supply chains in the food industry are very complex. Do you think that independent assurance can help them to become more transparent?

Yes, I think there are several things that can help food supply chains to become transparent. Independent assurance is one of them but there is room for improvement in the visibility of tier three and four suppliers. We need to bridge this gap and to create some visibility, perhaps by using new technologies to create that transparency, to create that visibility - especially for the larger clients that we serve such as the food processors and manufacturers.

So leading on from that do you see the industry moving more towards more online data validation?

I think we are on the verge of the digitalisation of our business with more remote and digital assessments, both of which could be done online. I’m not saying that we should do 100% of our audits online, but if you think about it, the big companies may have 500,000 suppliers, they organise audits in maybe 1,000 or 2,000 of them but their visibility for remaining suppliers is limited. So the idea would be to create this kind of global remote assessment which could potentially be done automatically in some way.

Imagine being able to automatically run a risk assessment for your 500,000 suppliers then define which are the two or three percent which are really at risk. Or maybe, you could see areas that need improving upon, so you could arrange an onsite assessment to ensure the continual improvement of your global supply chain.

We also need to think about the use of big data and consolidate all of the information coming from supply chains to make sure that organisations serving the food industry have no nonconformities at any time. Because the data is online, all of it can be gathered automatically, from lab results through to the driving and transportation information to name but a few examples. Through the use of computer analysis, this delivers an online metering of an organisations’ state of compliance. I think that’s the future of independent assurance - to have a constant and permanent monitoring of your compliance and not only a spot check on a given date.

Where do you think the responsibility should lie to ensure the development of positive change in food safety?

Well the responsibility lies both with the industry and with the various service providers - not just the audit bodies. We should all be responsible for that; the industry should commit to a certain level of compliance and certification bodies should make sure that they have the required resources to deliver the assurance that the industry needs. So it’s a mutual responsibility I would say.

Clearly, there is a close link between food safety, sustainability, and environmental issues. In the future, what impact do you think this link will have for organisations and their Food Safety Management System?

Given that we have between 200,000 - 300,000 extra people to feed every day on earth and our resources are becoming increasingly limited, the link between food safety and sustainability has never been stronger. We know that global warming is having a significant impact on productivity and the arable land available for farming is decreasing as is the crop yield - and a large part of our crops are going towards the production of bio fuels. I think that ultimately food safety and food sustainability will be really totally integrated into food safety management systems and many large organisations are in the process of doing this, if they haven’t done already.

LRQA will be exhibiting on stand C4-5 at the 2016 Global Food Safety Conference in Berlin from the 29th February to 3rd March.