• Open sharing is critical to enable safe food for all

    Jul 12, 2018
    By Abigail Stevenson, Director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center

    Reflecting on my first few months in China as Director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC) in Huairou, Beijing, the pace of change is something that strikes me the most.  Although it’s visible in daily life through building development and creation of services like high speed train links, changes in the virtual world are perhaps even more impressive.  China is now the world’s largest e-commerce market for example, accounting for almost half of worldwide retail e-commerce sales.

    All this makes it an exciting place to live and do business. I can attest to this, having lived in its capital city, Beijing, for the best part of a year now. You can really feel the speed at which things are moving.  But along with this pace come new challenges.  Food safety is one such challenge that everyone faces, not just China.

    The reality is that food safety risks are increasing around the globe. These challenges come from a wide range of areas, including changes in agricultural practices, food production, and the environment. Pathogens, such as Salmonella, Listeria and E.coli, and mycotoxins, particularly aflatoxins, continue to present a significant challenge to human and pet health. The globalization of trade means that a food safety issue in one part of the world can quickly impact the global food supply chain. At the same time, new opportunities such as e-commerce bring with them challenges around assurance of authenticity for consumers.

    There is also the issue of reduced consumer trust across the globe – particularly in food companies, owing to a perceived lack of transparency in how food is produced and where it comes from. This has led to calls for industry and regulatory reform.

    China is no different and has experienced a number of food safety issues in its recent past. Determined to find a solution, the Chinese government are working very hard to improve food safety standards. In fact, it was ‘pull’ from Chinese regulators and our Mars China management teams that led to us to base the Mars GFSC in China. 

    As part of our work in China, we were recently invited to contribute an industry perspective to a new book, “Building Food Safety Governance in China”, coordinated by Jérôme Lepeintre, Minister Counsellor for Agriculture, Health and Food Safety at the European Union Delegation to the People’s Republic of China.


    To me this book is a visible demonstration of the positive steps already being taken towards the creation of a global governance approach, and the vital role that China is playing here. China is already a member of the Codex Alimentarius – a 189 strong body focusing on international food safety – and the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP). Both are dedicated to supporting and promoting global cooperation for food safety capacity building. That said, there is always room to go further through shared research projects of common interest and collaboration with data sharing in real time. 

    This is where the work we’re doing at the GFSC plays a key role; through openly sharing results of original research, and by bringing together experts to discuss how we enable safe food for all. As well as our partnerships in China, the GFSC hosts a range of training sessions, conferences and seminars with academics, manufacturers, regulators, policymakers and non-government organizations from all over the world. I for one am very excited to be part of this exciting work and am incredibly proud of the purpose driven approach Mars take as a company. 

    Please download a copy of “Building Food Safety Governance in China” by visiting https://marsgfsc.com/en/Newsletterdetails?item=d88fe658-6142-632c-ac68-ff0000556d69 if you are interested.

  • Partnerships and Expertise Facilitate Global Safe, Nutritious Foods

    Sep 26, 2017
    By J. B. Cordaro

    “After air and water, safe-nutritious food is the third most immediate need of all humans.”  Ren Wang, Assistant Director General, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

    Food safety is critical to food security and ensuring safe, nutritious food, but even when viewed from only a few key metrics, it is clear that much needs to be done to address global food safety. The negative human, economic, social and environmental consequences of unsafe foods impact over 4.5 billion people a year in both developed and developing countries, primarily from exposure to mycotoxins, including aflatoxins.  This fact represents the tip of the iceberg as the 25% of the world’s food supply that is contaminated impacts 1 in 10 people on our planet who suffer from eating unsafe foods, causing 600 million people to fall ill annually and 420,000 people to die, mostly women and children under 5 years of age.

    Ensuring safe food requires a multi-faceted and sustainable approach, and there are efforts under way to address global concerns about all forms and causes of unsafe foods through action oriented platforms led by the United Nations and others to strengthen global food systems and supply chains。

    Firstly, food safety is recognized as a component of food security with linkages to nutrition and collateral development components. Secondly, food safety is given higher priority in findings, recommendations and actions by United Nations forums such as the 2014 International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the 2016 Decade of Action on Nutrition (DOAN). Added to that, food safety is highlighted by UN agencies, such as WHO’s declaration of the 2015 World Health Day as Word Food Safety Day and the most recent 2017 FAO Conference calling for the UN General Assembly to establish June 7 as an annual World Food Safety Day.

    Within the SDGs, the key focus for safe, nutritious foods is at SDG 2: to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. However, close linkages exist among SDG 2 and other SDGs. SDG 1 - end poverty in all its forms everywhere; SDG 3 - ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages; SDG 5 - achieve gender equity and empower all women and girls; SDG 6 - clean water and sanitation; SDG 12 - responsible consumption and production; SDG 13 - climate action; and SDG 17- the partnership goal, which strengthens the implementation and revitalizes the global partnership for sustainable development.

    DOAN’s umbrella function is closely allied with nutrition related goals and targets of the SDGs and the policy commitments from the ICN2 by consolidating and aligning nutrition actions. Specifically DOAN seeks to support and catalyze nutrition actions and investments by helping countries attain specific, measurable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) commitments by 2025. Clearly there is a need to mobilize concrete actions to ensure a safe, nutritious food supply.  

    The private sector also has a role to play, and collaboration between businesses and other key partners is critical if we are to tackle the many food safety challenges impacting the global food supply today. The opening of Mars’ Global Food Safety Center (GFSC) in 2015 was a significant step. The center seeks to raise the bar through the sharing of food safety expertise, research and training. It’s also a catalyst for collaboration with government, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations and other industry leaders – all vitally important if we are to safely feed a global population expected to reach nine billion or more by 2050.  Through the center Mars has collaborated with United Nations entities such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Bank; Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN); the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA); IBM; China Food and Drug Association; several academic and university partnerships: multiple collaborations focused on ensuring safe, nutritious foods to achieve food security.

    The Decade of Action on Nutrition has called upon Member States and other stakeholders, including the private sector, to convene platforms to support nutrition actions focused on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets. A multi-sector driven Safe, Nutritious Foods Alliance platform, supported by business and NGOs could benefit National Governments in their implementation of the 10 principles of the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) and the 17 SDGs. If this platform is established it would be a valuable resource for existing and planned Mars food safety partnerships and expand the Mars GFSC network.