Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Building Consumer Trust through Assurance

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) conference that took place last week in Washington D.C. is a very timely one. According to the IBM Consumer Confidence Survey conducted in June 2009, 80% of consumers do not trust their food. This is because of breakdowns in food safety protocols and fraud perpetrated by unscrupulous manufacturers that eroded consumer confidence.

The food industry has changed over the years and tremendous progress has been made in the way we look at identifying issues associated with food safety. The industry has moved from a reactive inspection based approach to a more proactive approach of identifying, evaluating and controlling physical, chemical and microbiological hazards at all stages of the process.
Industry has also realized that food safety programmes are “non competitive” and has taken steps to be more proactive by ensuring that sufficient information on issues concerning food safety is available throughout the food chain and effectively communicated externally as well as internally.
Issues that industry still face are: 1)lack of transparency along the food chain, 2) large number of standards and lack of agreement on what standard to use during an assessment and 3) global sourcing of both ingredients and finished products.
The GFSI has taken several steps to harmonize by benchmarking standards to be used by the industry. Food safety experts at the conference stressed the importance of more emphasis of proactive measures to mitigate or eliminate hazards and the need to be more transparent all along the food chain. These steps will certainly help in moving towards increased consumer confidence.

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