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Steve Wearne / Food safety requires global collaboration


The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) Chairperson, Steve Wearne, delivered a “leadership talk” this week at the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) conference being held in Singapore, to offer “insights into the latest developments at Codex, exploring the intersection of technology, artificial intelligence (AI), innovation and climate change, and elaborate on future collaborative initiatives between GFSI and Codex.” In his talk, he highlighted the ways in which GFSI and Codex work towards a common goal of “bringing people together with a focus on food safety in order to protect everyone, everywhere.” This common goal, he said, is borne out in the “clear, predictable and equitable standards” developed by Codex and required by the global food trade.

In a “fireside chat” following the talk, Wearne spoke with moderator Isabelle Kumar about his tenure as CAC Chairperson, which will come to an end at the CAC meeting in November 2024, his advice for future leaders in food safety, and the ways in which he sees Codex working with industry players, regulatory bodies and consumers in future collaborative initiatives.

He identified two pieces of Codex work that he sees as defining texts of his time as Chairperson. The first was the standard for ready-to-use therapeutic food. “Encouraged and supported by the UN World Food Programme, we developed a commodity standard to help assure the consistent safety of this vital humanitarian product,” he explained. The second defining text, on guidelines for food hygiene controls in traditional markets for food has been forwarded by the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene for adoption at CAC47 later this year. “I find it difficult to think of any other Codex guidelines which have the potential to improve global food safety outcomes more than that text,” he said.

In a constantly shifting food safety landscape, the advice for future leaders was: be vigilant, keep abreast of the science and collaborate as widely as you can, wherever you can. On engaging stakeholders, he made the point that he hopes a defining characteristic of his time as CAC Chairperson will be the way he reached out to observers, “including but by no means limited to you in GFSI,” he said. He said that stakeholders have an important role to play by “engaging with national Codex committees to inform national positions, by being the canary in the coal mine and helping us to spot new issues before they become trade concerns, and by partnering with us in the ever-growing use of Codex standards.”

GFSI is an initiative of the Consumer Goods Forum, a Codex Observer. The GFSI Conference is being held 8–11 April 2024 to “bring the worldwide food safety community to reaffirm their strength and continuous collective drive to address industry challenges.”

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GFSI Conference


Photo ©FAO/ Codex Farid ElHaffar