Countdown to the Global Food Safety Conference: 3 weeks to go

LRQA’s Tim Ahn shares his hopes for the world’s biggest Food Safety event

With three weeks to go, Senior Technical Manager Food Safety, Timothy Ahn, talks about his expectations for the Berlin event, which will see hundreds of food safety professionals from all over the world join together to share knowledge and best practice and to discuss the most significant food safety risks and challenges facing the industry.

The theme of this year’s GFSI conference is “The Global Food Safety Vision: Making the Change”. What do you hope will come out of Berlin as a result of this?

The Global Food Safety Conference has evolved into one of the most important meetings annually in the world around food safety and what it’s done is a few things. Firstly, it has allowed organisations and stakeholders across the food sector to come together, so it’s not just retailers and manufacturers but its companies like LRQA, the certification bodies, regulators, NGO’s, and consumer groups. It’s all sorts of individuals who can get together and really talk about and share information around food safety. What’s unique about the GFSI Global Food Safety Conference is that every year it continues to expand its global input and its global outreach. So what I’m expecting is that by building on the successes of previous conferences, Berlin will continue to build on the strong reputation that the conference has and attract all of the key stakeholders globally into the conversation to enable us all to not only talk about these issues but shape future strategies to keep our food safe and sustainable.

Secondly, and this is so important, because we’re now at a time where regulators are now starting to get very active in the area of food safety in terms of regulation and rules; for instance, the whole aspect around the verification activities of manufacturing operations and supply chains is a really important topic. In the US the Food Safety Modernisation Act has just recently come into play and they’ve got a big emphasis on verification of supply chains and when you start looking at this, this is really a global issue.

What we need to be able to do as the food safety community is to demonstrate to regulators that we have connections worldwide. We have verification processes and systems that are worked globally and we need to be able to demonstrate to them our ability to effectively manage these systems and these supply chains. So I think these kinds of meetings are very important to provide connection points and discussion points within the food industry. But also to demonstrate to the stakeholders outside of the food industry itself that things are organised and we are working together to try and make the world a safer place for the production of food.

The GFSI conference is now in its fifteenth year, and has covered a wide range of topics in that time. Is there a particular topic that you would like to see given more emphasis during these events or a topic which you thought may have made more progress than it has?

The one area that I really think is important is around auditor competency and training and there’s a lot of activity taking place right now with GFSI on this. But this is a really important topic because the whole GFSI scheme and the verifications of the schemes are all underpinned by highly competent assessors who then deliver very good audits. We need to make sure that we are continuing to develop, define and develop the competencies for assessors and that we’re able to demonstrate that to all key stakeholders.

The capability of and capacity for assessors is another key topic that I think we need to be thinking about, because as demands for verification continue to grow demands for the number of highly competent and trained assessors will also continue to grow. As a result, we need to make sure that we’re continuing to fill the talent pipeline with highly competent assessors for all the different schemes. So that to me is probably the one topic and area that I’m very interested in and as you know working for a certification body, this is really the foundation for what we do. So that’s what I’m looking for as we, LRQA - the world’s leading provider of professional assurance services - go into the conference.

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