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HomeNewsBusiness & TradeFive takeaways from Food Integrity Global Conference 2023

Five takeaways from Food Integrity Global Conference 2023

With a month having passed since Food Integrity Global, Grace Galler reflects on the key takeaways from the two day conference and shares how the sector came together to discuss some of the most prevalent concerns in the industry right now.

For two fantastic days, food industry experts came together to attend Food Integrity Global in the heart of London, bringing with them a wealth of experience, knowledge and insight to discuss some of the key challenges and concerns that our sector is grappling with.

No knowledge was left bottled up at New Food’s event, with speakers attending from all across the world Food Integrity Global allowed the industry to take to the stage and use the event as an international platform for discussion, problem solving and inspiration.

“This is a phenomenal conference as it brings together so many different people, different actors in the food supply system. People from academia, people from industry and regulators are coming together,” shared Chris Elliott, Professor of Food Safety at Queen’s University Belfast and world renowned food fraud expert.

With a month having passed since the event, now is a good time to look back on five of the key topics discussed in Kensington, London, as a way to let those that couldn’t attend this year in on the insight still weighing on attendee’s minds.

Food fraud

Food fraud costs the global food industry approximately €30 billion every single year, with cases making headlines across the world and causing widespread concern. But the industry isn’t shying away from this problem, in fact it is doing the opposite, tackling the problem head on behind the scenes and doing its very best to keep our food out of the hands of fraudsters.

With ten years having passed since the horse meat scandalNew Food called on Professor Chris Elliott to numerous discussions surrounding food crime and how far the industry has come since the landmark case. Accompanying Elliott on stage for numerous sessions dedicated to food crime discussion were speakers from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Standards Scotland, Sainsbury’s, 2 Sisters Food Group, the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), Oritain UK, Culture Compass and the European Commission.

Whether it was discussing the action Sainsbury’s has taken since the horsemeat scandal struck, or questioning regulatory bodies such as the FSA and FSS on how they have been proactively implementing measures to combat concerns through enhanced surveillance and monitoring, audience members’ notebooks were filling up with progress steps and questions for the panellists.

It was a real opportunity to highlight the diverse methods employed to deceive consumers to the potential risks posed to public health and safety and allowed speakers dissect the evolving nature of fraudulent activities and strategise collaborative solutions to fortify the integrity of our global food networks.

The impact of AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) has turned the way we work on its head, and that rings true for the food industry. Speaking at Food Integrity Global on the impact AI has been making in the last few years alone were panellists from Barilla, the University of Piemont Orientale, SGS DIGICOMPLY and Mars Incorporated, each bringing their own unique stance to the ever-evolving landscape of AI integration within the food industry.

Roberto Buttini, Marco Arlorio, Nicola Colombo and Kristel Hauben speaking on the session titled “I, robot: Can you ever remove humans from the food safety process?

These experts shed light on how AI’s rapid evolution has catalysed unprecedented advancements in the food sector, redefining operational paradigms and propelling innovation across various facets of food production, quality assurance, and supply chain management. It was clear that their collective insights underscored the transformative potential of AI, emphasising its role in optimising processes, ensuring stringent compliance with safety standards, and driving sustainability initiatives within the global food ecosystem.

The diverse viewpoints reflected the large-scale impact of AI on the food industry, heralding a new era where technological prowess converges with domain expertise, ethics, and consumer-centric approaches to forge a future of enhanced food integrity and sustainability.

Food system fragility

Another topic discussed in-depth at Food Integrity Global was that of fragility, including how the food industry has been navigating food inflation, the cost-of-living crisis, the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread impacts of the war in Ukraine.

Speaking on this topic were speakers from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), Mars Incorporated, Tate & Lyle, The Clean Label Project and The Trussell Trust, with each putting a magnifying glass over the repercussions of these global challenges on the food sector.

During discussions at Food Integrity Global, the fragility of the global food system emerged as a central focus, sparking urgent deliberations among industry leaders. The conference served as a catalyst for dissecting the intricate challenges surrounding food security, inflationary pressures, and the imperative for sustainable practices within the food industry.

Experts and stakeholders underscored how these interconnected issues have magnified vulnerabilities, prompting a critical reevaluation of the resilience and sustainability of our food systems in the face of disruptions.

What’s more, the conference shed light on the amplified risks faced by marginalised communities, emphasising the urgency for comprehensive strategies to ensure access to nutritious food. 

Going further, industry leaders discussed the need for innovative solutions to navigate these inflationary pressures while stressing the significance of sustainable agricultural practices and responsible resource management as cornerstones of a more resilient food system.

Sustainability: now or never

Sustainability shouldn’t just be a buzzword. That was the consensus from the discussions had at Food Integrity Global this year. But more than that, speakers revealed exactly how various members of the sector are keeping it top of their agenda.

The conference hosted several panels dedicated to discussing sustainability, including “COP-out”, with speakers from the likes of Nomad Foods, Tirlán Ltd, EIT Food and the Sustainable Foods Trust. Another included New Food’s first ever live recording of our podcast “Food To Go” where Grace and Josh talked through sustainability, and the misconceptions and even mistrust that exist between some trading blocs with guests from the US on stage.

But it didn’t stop there, Joshua Minchin, New Food’s Editor sat down with John Powell, Head of Agricultural Services at the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), to talk over how important collaboration is with agricultural sector to support and guide best practices, including towards sustainability.

The Food Integrity Global conference explored the diverse facets of food sustainability, acknowledging its vital role in upholding food integrity. Presenters and attendees engaged in in-depth conversations, examining how sustainability intersects with food safety, excellence, and ethical manufacturing.

Stakeholders from various sectors emphasised the crucial need to embed sustainable methodologies across all parts of the food industry, highlighting its pivotal significance in preserving the environment while meeting the nutritional demands of current and forthcoming generations.

Food safety focus

New Food event wouldn’t be complete without delving into the crucial topic of food safety and applauding the remarkable efforts within the sector. These discussions celebrated the industry’s relentless commitment to ensuring the entire supply chain prioritises the consistent production of safe, nutritious food every day of the year.

At the heart of many of the discussions, food safety was a topic that couldn’t be avoided at Food Integrity Global, and for good reason. Keeping our food system safe, from farm to fork, is absolutely vital and it was evident at the event that every company takes matters regarding food safety extremely seriously. 

Speakers discussed a myriad of topics relating to this theme, including emerging risks, how far the sector has come at tackling risks, the use of AI whether human’s will always be needed in in food safety standard checking and if pest monitoring is moving fast enough.

Diverse, in-depth and illuminating were the conversations had by speakers including regulators, retailers, academics, researchers and consultants.

The event underscored the unwavering dedication across the supply chain to uphold the integrity of our food systems, showcasing that the collective commitment to safety remains steadfast year-round. 

A final word

It was inspiring to see members from the food and beverage industry come from far and wide to have their say on some of the biggest topics weighing on the minds of the sector right now.

Thanks to the work of the team at New Food, speakers, sponsors and attendees, two action-packed days were spent discussing what the industry is doing well and where change needs to be made. One thing is certain though: the food sector is not shy of innovation and collaboration.

The discussions highlighted a shared a collective commitment to continuous improvement and a drive to push boundaries, ensuring that the food sector remains at the forefront of positive change and evolution.

Being able to speak face-to-face and shake the hands of LinkedIn connections you may have never met was one of the best parts of Food Integrity Global. Along with recognising some of the inspiring individuals that have been making real change in the industry and commending them with an Apple AwardNew Food is honoured to have been able to facilitate so many meaningful connections and moments of appreciation.

For those that joined us in London last month, please do let us know your thoughts on the event and make sure to keep the conversation going. If you are interested in next year’s Food Integrity Global conference taking place in Amsterdam, do not forget to register your interest here.

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