Sharing best practices through collaborative platforms is one of the best ways to deliver safe and trusted products to consumers, says Food Industry Asia (FIA), a non-profit industry association formed in 2010 to enable major food companies to speak with one voice on complex issues such as food security, food safety and the harmonisation of standards. Pradeep Pant, keynote speaker for this year’s Global Food Safety Conference, shares how the concept of collaboration and ‘Shared Responsibility’ can lead to greater trust in food. Throughout the interview, he stresses the importance of placing consumers at the heart of any business and government strategy.
As the founding president of FIA and a regional president of one of the world’s largest food companies, you have been a strong proponent of multi-stakeholder collaboration. Can you explain how this applies in the context of food safety?
Pradeep Pant: Before the formation of FIA five years ago, there was no regional platform in Asia where food companies could share best practices and have a unified ‘voice’ at the policy table. FIA’s vision was to create such a platform, and to cultivate an environment where all food companies could come together with a sense of shared accountability.
This concept of ‘Shared Responsibility’ applies directly to the challenge of ensuring food safety. It is only through a collaborative approach that we can protect our globalised supply chains and deliver safe and trusted products to consumers.
Organisations such as FIA and The Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) offer a non-competitive way for companies to channel their energy and efforts into improving food safety systems across the whole supply chain.
Thanks to its pan-Asia reach, FIA is able to leverage the global expertise of the GFSI and provide an extended platform for other industry associations at a country and local level to support the scaling up of capacity building and training that are so essential to securing a food safety culture.
What are some of the challenges and opportunities in food safety in Asia?
Pant: Food safety is a global challenge, with various international standards setting the benchmark. As with any aspect of business, the application of these global standards needs to be examined and understood through a local lens with the consumer at the forefront. This in turn will lead to appropriate policy solutions that are relevant to governments, businesses and the consumers they serve.
In Asia, several factors need to be considered when building a food safety culture.
Various elements such as national diets and traditions, as well as religious, political and social values should be taken into consideration. By understanding and adapting to the local context, food safety training can be tailored to a particular audience without compromising the underlying global standards.
In this context, multi-stakeholder collaborations are key.
By sharing best practices through collaborative platforms like FIA and the GFSI, food companies can roll out food safety measures in a consistent and relevant manner by tapping on the knowledge and experience of their global, regional and local networks.
As you mentioned, food safety is a complex global challenge. What is your call to action to leaders from businesses, governments and civil society to address this evolving challenge?
Pant: Collaboration and partnership at a local level are mission critical. If we are to address the global challenge of ensuring food safety, we must embrace both the technical and cultural dimensions of this challenge.
Before we can truly leverage our shared responsibility, we first need to establish a sense of ‘Shared Purpose’.
This requires a coming together of technical and societal leadership to harness our individual commitments to the consumer. None of us can achieve these goals in isolation — it takes a whole community to embed a culture of food safety, and it takes responsible leadership to build this community.
Leaders in their respective fields, be it technical, political or educational, have a role to articulate a vision of partnership that goes beyond their day-to-day interactions. Effective leaders can and must break down silos and seek out collaboration with new partners across the political and cultural divide. Together, they can foster a climate of trust among consumers, businesses and governments that will provide the foundation of a thriving food safety culture.
By seeking out platforms to engage with one another we can share best practice and address food safety in a more meaningful and holistic way.
This is why I am happy to support and participate in the Global Food Safety Conference taking place this March.
The theme of the conference is ‘Food Safety — Our Shared Responsibility’, which I fully endorse and champion. I am proud that this conference will take place in Asia for the first time and I look forward to a discussion that will take us a step closer towards a climate of trust and accountability that is so essential for the future of safe food.
Pradeep is a highly experienced senior business leader, now involved in business consulting and education. With over 37 years of experience in the FMCG industry, Pradeep is an expert in building businesses in both mature and emerging markets. Pradeep Pant is also the founding president of Food Industry Asia (FIA), an advisory board member of Singapore Management University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business and a senior advisor to Hay.
He was Executive Vice-President and President of Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa for Mondelēz International which consists of the global snack and food brands of former Kraft Foods Inc.
Pradeep was also a member of the Fonterra leadership team and its global brands marketing group. Prior to Fonterra, he spent 10 years with The Gillette Company. He also worked with Nestlé, J Walter Thompson and the Tata Group.
Global Food Safety Conference
Food Safety: A Shared Responsibility
March 3-5, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The 2015 conference programme, in addition to its business sessions, will include a special overview of the Global Food Safety Initiative as well as a Farm to Fork Discovery Tour that will offer delegates an insight into how food safety is managed in the supply chain in Malaysia.
For more information/registration, visit: www.tcgff oodsafety.com. FIA is pleased to offer its Members and Associates a special “First Timers Fee”. For more information, contact