Review – GFSI 2017 Conference: Meeting Summary and new GFSI Issue 7 Published

Written by: John Spink

Primary Source:  Food Fraud Initiative

MSU FFI Director John Spink at the GFSI conference with (from left to right) MSU research colleague Dr. Roy Fenoff (The Citadel University), GFSI Chair and Board Member Mike Robach (Cargill), Spink, GFSI Board Member and Conference Chair Peter Begg (Mondelez).

Last week at the GFSI conference, it was visible that Food Fraud has started to shift from the ‘shiny new thing’ to integrating into the overall Food Safety Management System. The GFSI 2017 Conference announced the new GSFI Issue 7 Guidance Document, which requires a Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment and a Food Fraud Prevention Strategy.

MSU’s Food Fraud Initiative (FFI) Director Dr. John Spink attended the GFSI Annual Conference in Houston with MSU research colleague and Citadel University Criminal Justice Assistant Professor Dr. Roy Fenoff. Dr. Fenoff is leading FFI research projects in Document Fraud and Intelligence Analysis.

GFSI 2017 Conference

The GFSI conference has continued to receive commitment from the food safety leaders of companies. With over 1,200 attendees, this was reportedly the biggest GFSI conference yet. Two major concepts covered in this post are a Food Fraud Review and then a Conference Summary.

Food Fraud Review

At this conference Food Fraud was not a subject of ANY presentations or breakout groups. The term “fraud” NEVER showed up on any presentation title, overview, or abstract. Since our MSU presentation at the GFSI Orlando conference in 2011 there has been a continued and growing discussion on the topic. The complete absence of Food Fraud presentations at this year’s conference may seem confusing… at first.

The new GFSI Issue 7 Guidance Document was published just this week and addressing Food Fraud is required. It is not optional. There is no debate on “if” it is included. With the requirements just being finalized the expanded questions of “how” to comply will be for the future. Conference Summary

  1. CEO Panel: The CEO panels – and just the fact that so many took the time to attend – demonstrated the awareness and commitment to Food Safety. That said, there was a sense that Food Safety was just another of many corporate programs. The CEOs expressed that Food Safety “is something that is very concerning and important” but they seemed to maybe not really understand the immense threat to their businesses.
    1. MSU FFI Insight: There seems to be a need for more of a direct application into the corporate risk map – to translate the Food Safety risk into a common assessment that can be compared with all other corporate risks or competing investments.
  2. Regulators and Third Party Systems: The Regulator panels demonstrated the continued and deep interest of governments in the opportunities of robust and thorough Food Safety third party systems such as GFSI. While being optimistic and supportive of the industry initiatives there was an appropriate cautious or guarded position
    1. MSU FFI Insight: The regulators – US, UK, EU, China and around the world – are cautiously optimistic about the expanding public-private-partnership. There is an opportunity for industry – and GFSI – to continue to grow and nurture this relationship. The onus is on the private sector.
  3. Food Safety Management System maturity: Originally, back in the 1980s and 1990s, “Quality” was often perceived as just the “flavor of the month” or the next new fad that would come and go. At Chevron Corporate we cycled through quality concepts from Crosby and then Deming before continuing on to Six Sigma. Now, proven over time, companies understand the value of managing operations through a system like HACCP or Six Sigma. While still on the journey, the GFSI Food Safety Management System is refining and expanding.  A key point is noting the ongoing process improvement of adoption (e.g. the GFSI Global Markets Program) and support (e.g. auditor competence).
    1. MSU FFI Insight: This is in the doldrums of implementing new processes where it is no longer “new” but also not fully ingrained.  Persistence and diligence will help the Food Safety Management System reach its potential.

Food Fraud Guidance

The GFSI officially published their Issue 7 Guidance Document. This is the official GFSI statement of what is expected in a Food Safety Management System. GFSI “endorses” standards which are known as “schemes” and implemented by “scheme owners.” The only change from the final draft is more clarity.

  1. Address ALL types of Fraud and products: Companies must address ALL types of Food Fraud (including stolen goods, tampering, and counterfeits) and ALL products (including raw ingredients through consumer packaged goods).
    1. MSU Insight: A CEO must address all risks and vulnerabilities. It is natural and efficient to use this same scope for Food Fraud.
  2. Three Assessments of HACCP, VACCP and TACCP: A separate Food Fraud Vulnerability Assessment (VACCP) is required as well as a separate Food Defense Vulnerability Assessment (TACCP). The guidance – consistent with FMSA Preventive Controls – does NOT require an assessment for each and every product. Product groups or categories can be evaluated.
    1. MSU Insight: While it seems like 3x the work to have three assessments, separating these very different actions is actually simpler and easier.
  3. Refinement of All Methods: Covering all Food Safety topics, the GFSI Issue 7 is an expansion and refinement of the overall system. This is a natural evolution and expansion of a system that is working and valued.
    1. MSU Insight: Whether ISO 9000 Quality Management or HACCP, the systems started with simple steps and grew to meet emerging needs.

The Food Safety industry is becoming stronger and stronger but there is a need to maintain the focus and motivation. Food Fraud has become completely ingrained or codified in the Food Safety Management System. While the requirement is formal, the application and implementation has really just begun. This is a high-growth and high-evolution time for Food Fraud prevention.  Food Fraud seems like something completely new and maybe even confusing.  Fortunately, there are systems, methods, and foundations already in place. An analogy is that you need to drive a car, not build a car. As long as you are sure of the car you can just worry about navigating the highway.  GFSI, MSU, and other groups will continue to be developing guidance and support. Reach out, engage, and be part of Food Fraud prevention. FFI.

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John Spink
Dr. Spink has been focused on product fraud since the Michigan State University’s Food Safety Program and the School of Packaging began research on the topic in 2006. This work expanded to the behavioral sciences and criminology and led to the establishment of the Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Initiative in 2008. In 2009 the work shifted to the School of Criminal Justice where the Initiative evolved into a Program.