Beyond Food Safety – Sustainability

Beyond Food Safety – Sustainability

In Chicago at the United Fresh Expo, a group of passionate contributors met at the GLOBAL G.A.P. 2015 Tour. Previously, I recapped the first session, “Food Safety Harmonization – 6 years later” – this post summarizes the second session Moderated by Robert Denny II a leading Environmental Policy & Risk Reduction Consultant.

“Define for me the meaning of ‘sustainability’…”

“Looking past Food Safety”, the audit burden at the farm has grown to include sustainability, worker welfare and other non-food safety objectives. The panel and attendees explored the genesis of the environmental and social standards and their related audits. What started off a little dry had quite a few stirred before it was over.

 

Tamara Muruetagoiena of Driscoll’s Strawberry Associates suggested what many are doing [with sustainability initiatives] is a means of “differentiation vs. harmonization” and spoke to the challenges of benchmarking. Donna Lynn Browne of Naturipe Farms was more optimistic that benchmarking is key to reduce audit fatigue and streamline requirements across the industry.

“…there is a need for market-based solutions.”

Matt Rogers of Whole Foods brought a pragmatic perspective to the table: “With the absence of strong laws and enforcement the market is left to solve the issues….” “…there is a need for market-based solutions.” Several others from the audience spoke to the frustrations of seemingly nonsensical and arduous requirements in the name of sustainability. “Define for me the meaning of ‘sustainability’…” chimed in one frustrated audience member.

 

Other panel members including Chris Walkdrop of the Consumer federation of America, Melinda Dwyer of Costco, Gavin Bailey of Wal-Mart, Mary K. O’Rouke of the US. Dept. of Labor were productive and balanced in their perspectives. Generally: sustainability, worker welfare and corporate stewardship are important to consumers and to the industry; requirements to substantiate best practices aren’t’ going away. It was also acknowledged that most producers and processors offer clean, safe and productive environments and that standards are a means of leveling the playing field.

 

The session came to a conclusion due to the schedule but there was still much more to say. I was impressed with the contributions from GLOBAL G.A.P. Staff and GFSI Representatives and their balanced approach to meeting consumer requirements while keeping in mind the demands and challenges of growers and retailers.

 

I expect there will be much more to come and look forward to your comments. Feel free to leave them below.