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The 12th annual China International Food Safety & Quality (CIFSQ) Conference, held in Beijing in October is an important top-level event, bringing together over 900 regulators, scientists, industry executives, and academics from China and around the world for two intensive days of learning and networking. China is the world’s largest food producer and the largest food consumer in volume. China also has been under increasing public and international pressure to solve food safety problems that have arisen and caused illnesses in China and abroad.

With a theme of Good Health Starts with Safe Food, the conference focused on the enormous responsibility for safeguarding food that is shared by governments and businesses around the world. Food safety is a shared risk and shared responsibility that includes government regulatory agencies and food-related companies. Thus, food safety ultimately requires that all combine efforts, resources, and knowledge toward a shared vision for more unified actions, and this conference, by bringing together internationally recognized food safety experts, can play an instrumental role in helping local agri-food businesses move forward a safer, smarter, greener food system.

“The CIFSQ is one of the biggest, most diverse food safety conferences in the world,” said Codex Secretary Tom Heilandt. “It allows me to discuss challenging topics in Codex with a broad audience, connect with colleagues, make new contacts, and learn about the future of food safety.” Heilandt spoke at sessions on Food Safety Capacity/Capability Building, Creative Ways to Achieving a Sustainable Future for Food, and Emerging Trends and New Developments in Early Life Nutrition & Infant Formula Safety.

More than 100 food safety leaders took to the stage during the conference to share their insights about the latest food safety best practices, methods, trends, and scientific developments. Other keynote speakers, who addressed the challenges of how food safety, new regulations, initiatives, and scientific knowledge can be transformed into actions, included IAFP Executive Director David Tharp, who moderated the regulatory session; U.S. FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas, who provided guidelines on how to enter into the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety; China’s Deputy Director of the Food Production Safety Supervision Dept., State Administration for Market Regulation, Gu Shaoping, who presented a Brief on the State Administration for Market Regulation.

I also chaired a number of panel discussions. The first on Food Safety Management, at which China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA) Chief Scientist Wu Yongning discussed What Has the Melamine Incident Taught Us in the Past 10 Years and How China Progressed from Food Safety to Food Integrity, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University Director of Innovation and Technology Development Terence Lok-Ting Lau discussed Science Innovation and Digital Transformation at the Service of Food Safety. The second, on Creative Ways to Achieve a Sustainable Future for Food, included General Mills Vice President, Global Food Safety and Quality Mark Fryling; QA Editor and Author Lisa Jo Lupo; McDonald’s Vice President of China Supply Chain Management Audrey Cheung; Mars Global Food Safety Center Director, China, Abigail Stevenson; and Heilandt, who provided attendees with best practices on Sustainability and Food Safety: What’s The Connection?

While many consumers are concerned about food safety, they also express concern about societal and economic matters and environmental sustainability. For the agri-food industry, are these interests mutually exclusive? To answer this, panelists presented initiatives on how the agri-food industry could develop, produce, and market safer food while ensuring a more efficient food system that balances the interests of people, the protection of the planet, and the company’s economic performance. They brought initiatives that demonstrate that food safety management could be extended and could go beyond only ensuring products are safe from farm to fork. From a sustainability perspective, we can look at food safety as a key component that connects social issues with environmental issues and provides a common platform for making positive change in each area.

Day two of the conference was devoted to breakout sessions with the aim of going further from issues to actions in a more interactive way. These addressed topics such as Next Generation, Whole Genome Sequencing — A Revolution in Public Health Protection, and Emerging Trends and New Developments in Early Life Nutrition & Infant Formula Safety.

Infant formula is one of the most regulated foods in the world. It has advanced in complexity over the years, due to numerous innovation-driven advancements, such as extensive sophisticated testing, formulation design at the cutting edge of science and medicine, high-tech manufacturing processes, collection and interpretation of a vast amount of data along the supply chain for detection of contaminants, modeling on the relationship between nutrition and health, and research advances of natural bioactive components in breast milk. During the session I chaired, the panelists — Abbott Nutrition Research and Development Center, North Asia Region Director Jason Li; Heilandt; China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, Division I, Applied Nutrition Deputy Researcher Grace Liang; Hong Kong Polytechnic University Food Safety Consortium Project Manager Bernard Chang; Mérieux NutriSciences Corporate Scientific Director Samim Saner; Fonterra Research and Development Centre Principal Research Scientist Justin Bendall; and Mead Johnson Greater China Medical Affairs Director Pony L. Chen — addressed each of these and their challenges.