What first prompted you to attend the GFSC? 
I was at the first conference, because at that time I was Chairman of the GFSI Technical Committee and I went to present the detailed plans, our work and progress and what GFSI was and what not.
So you were a very active delegate from the start. Is that what keeps you going back?
Yes, in part. I kept going back, of course, because of my diverse roles in various GFSI working groups, but that’s not all. In fact, the conference developed into an excellent platform to get the latest information about food safety, to discuss the way forward and new developments and to befriend colleagues in the same field of work.
That’s a fantastic message for future delegates! It’s also an integral part of the GFSI mission, so it’s great to hear that it’s become reality.
Take us back, to your GFSC journey. What sticks out most in your memory?
So many good memories…
  1. First and foremost, the presentations from top experts about what happens in their field of expertise.  For instance, the development of gene typing and Pulsenet – excellent presentations.  
  2. The first conference, where there was opposition to our ideas about the future of standards and certification from suppliers. There was even a direct challenge of our vision for the way forward by a trade organisation of the producing industry. That was a challenge but look at where we stand today!
  3. A session about social media and food safety that was very helpful for our company.
  4. A quote from Prof. Gravani that I often use in presentations: “Experts focus on hazards, consumers focus on fears“. 
  5. Discussions about “Once certified, accepted everywhere”.
  6. Presentations about outbreaks and how they were handled were always interesting, for instance about the spinach outbreak in the USA and a very complicated outbreak where more than hundred ingredients had to be investigated. How to organise something like that?
  7. How to do business in China and in Russia and produce safe food there (dairy).
  8. The official conference dinner in Amsterdam where former chairman of GFSI Fons Schmidt and his band were entertaining the participants during the whole evening with a fantastic musical program and I truly danced the night away.
Thank you for sharing all those great memories from the Conference! What do you always look forward to the most?
  1. Being away from the office gives an opportunity to open your mind for new ideas and new knowledge that later on, one can use in his own company. There are colleagues who miss most of the presentations, because they are networking constantly. Not for me!!! 
  2. My only regret is that I cannot clone myself and be present at all breakout sessions. I would like to follow all of them to glean new ideas.
Cloning! A great idea, and a great compliment to the level of speakers and the work of the Programme Committee! Like you said, GFSC is appreciated for learning and also for networking – what was your best networking moment?
  1. My meeting with Cindy Jiang from Mc Donalds and our interesting discussions on sourcing quality assurance
  2. The extensive contacts with my colleagues from Aeon, Japan that helped us tremendously in handling sourcing challenges in the far-east and that developed into mutual respect and friendship.
  3. Realising that colleagues from other retailers deal with exactly the same challenges as we do. You never walk alone!
So true! Can you tell us what your key take-aways have been? 
Culture matters. What in Western Europe is called “safe food” is not necessarily seen as safe in other cultures. The same goes for “unsafe food”.
Food safety is not a topic that stands alone. Many colleagues deal with challenges in sustainability and nutrition and health as well. Over the years I noticed a blurring of these topics that were discussed during the conference.
Borders in food safety? They don’t exist. It’s a truly worldwide topic.
Thank you so much Simone for taking the time to share your GFSC story with us! It’s truly inspirational and a great testimony to the work of the GFSI and the collaboration of food safety experts around the world via the Global Food Safety Conference.
If you’re interested in joining us at the upcoming Global Food Safety Conference in Kuala Lumpur, registrations are open at tcgffoodsafety.com. We look forward to seeing you there!

This post was generated from an interview between the GFSI and:
Dr. Simone Hertzberger
Senior Director, Product Integrity, Albert Heijn
Zaandam, The Netherlands