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Question: What is the evidence of this success?
Véronique: First of all, I see an extraordinary growth of the partnership. Although the retailers did get it started, it has truly become a shared effort with the brand manufacturers and foodservice companies. If you look at the composition of the GFSI Board, you will see senior experts from all of the leading food companies. Secondly, although it did start in Europe, it has now become global. Our recent Global Food Safety Conference 2015 was held in the Asian-Pacific region for the first time ever, and attracted over 900 delegates from 50 countries around the world.
 
Question: How credible are third party certification schemes?
Véronique: “For me, the evidence for the credibility of the schemes is the fact that so many companies are making this investment. Over 50,000 sites are now certified to one of the ten schemes that are recognised by GFSI. There is a strong trend with the outcome that certification is increasingly becoming the food sector’s passport to market access. The bottom line is that certification is good for business because food safety is good for business. Take the whole process seriously and you will reduce your business risk.”
 
Question: What is GFSI doing for smaller players in the food industry?
Véronique: “In the food industry, there are far more small and less developed businesses than large companies. When I started this job I hadn’t realised that GFSI had also considered their needs. Because of their size, lack of technical expertise, economic resources or the nature of their work such businesses find it difficult to get started with food safety. The GFSI Global Markets Programme is a voluntary, free access tool designed as an unaccredited, non-certification assessment process. It has aroused a lot of interest, from international organisations, governments and companies. We describe it as ‘The pathway to market access and certification.’ I can tell you that it is a very exciting development for everyone involved in GFSI.”
 

Coming Up at GFSI

  • The well-known benchmarking process for food safety management systems will continue with the GFSI Requirements Document 7th Edition (expected Feb. 2016)
  • The ground-breaking Global Markets Programme for small and less developed businesses has been revised and will be relaunched this spring
  • There will be a giant step forward in GFSI’s work for auditors. We are continuing to work with GFSI recognised schemes to improve auditor competence levels.
  • After the success of the 14th Global Food Safety Conference, held in the Asia-Pacific region for the very first time, we are already putting together the next GFSC, taking place in Berlin in March 2016.
 
 
Question: GFSI has an exciting year ahead! With all of the upcoming developments, where can stakeholders meet up with you next? 
Véronique: There are plenty of upcoming opportunities! Come and meet me at the upcoming Global Summit in New York this June where we’ll be discussing collaboration in food safety at the CGF Innovation Zone. Also, I’m pleased to extend an invitation to meet at The Maple Leaf Food Safety Symposium – GFSI Focus Day Canada in Toronto this October, the GFSI Focus Day in Beijing 3rd November, and the GFSI Focus Day in Argentina 12th November. And of course, mark your calendars for the next Global Food Safety Conference which is taking place in Berlin in March 2016. These are indeed exciting times, and while I’m delighted to build on the work of the last 15 years of the food industry’s flagship technical alliance, I’m even more excited about the game-changing period ahead. 
 
 

This post was written following an interview with:

Véronique Discours-Buhot
Director, Global Food Safety Initiative
The Consumer Goods Forum