On Wednesday, June 24 IBM hosted a forum in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill (Video: http://bit.ly/sxJMZ ) for our clients and influencer ecosystem to examine the need for smarter and safer food systems, and to discuss the future of food safety and quality and ways to improve consumer safety and confidence. More than 70 people attended including a US Congresswoman, US Federal Food Agencies, clients, academia, business partners, grocery and food associations, White House staffers, press and analysts. Organizations represented include the FDA, Center for Food Safety, United Fresh Produce Association, USDA, Wisconsin Livestock Identification Association, Univ of Maryland, George Mason Univ, Sara Lee, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and attendees were very complimentary of (and in some cases surprised) at the diversity of participants.
Here are a few highlights from each speaker – common themes include the need for identifiers for food products, open traceability systems, standards, and information sharing:
Congresswoman Nita Lowey, NY-18 (Westchester): we need a mandatory traceability system for all foods
David Acheson, Assoc. Commisioner for Food, FDA: major roadblocks to food safety are the lack of uniform standards, we need a global traceability system, there’s a misconception that local is safe and global is unsafe
Gay Whitney, Standards Director, EPCglobal: we need standards for food identification, information capture and information sharing
Caroline Smith DeWaal, Food Safety Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest: 46% consumers worry they’ll get sick from food, 52% have little confidence in food safety systems, retailers need to take more responsibility with recalls
Viktor Varan, Matiq: talked about the food tracking system implemented in Norway
Dr. Allan Preston, DVM and Assistant Deputy Minister, Manitoba Agriculture, Food & Rural Initiatives: humbled by how underdeveloped and developing nations are ahead of North America in food traceability
Dr. Harold Schmitz, Chief Science Officer, Mars: We need government, universities, and the industry to work together, and not fragment, to counter food supply chain threats
Margaret Saunders, Homeland Security Director, Oak Ridge National Lab: food safety is important to homeland security
The session ended with an active Q&A that could have gone longer, but we were already over our allotted time.
Below is a link to the press kit for the event that includes the final press release on the consumer survey we did about their attitudes on food safety that we released the day of the event. as well as other relevant content.