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Global Food Safety Seen as Growing Trade Issue
Date: 9/18/2008 3:51:00 PM
Written By: Jennifer Cummings or Eric Thomas, The Fratelli Group for NFTC, 202-822-9491

NFTC Forum Brings Together Business Leaders, Policymakers and Experts to Discuss Ways to Raise Standards

Washington, DC  – The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) and Waters Corporation today hosted a one-day Global Food Safety Policy Forum, during which representatives from the food industry, policymakers and thought leaders in international affairs discussed policy solutions to help ensure the safety of the world’s food supply. The NFTC forum, “Raising Food Safety Standards Worldwide,” focused on how to raise food safety standards both in the United States and among our foreign trading partners.
“Ensuring the safety of the global food supply chain is critical to the strength of our international trading system,” said NFTC President Bill Reinsch. “If families in the United States and across the globe have to approach the kitchen table with trepidation because of concerns about the safety of the food they are eating, it could have a huge negative impact on the international food market and raise broader concerns about the entire world trading system.”
With food safety as one of the many issues atop the international community’s agenda, the forum was an effort to build a bridge between industry and public policy leaders to outline solutions to the global food safety challenge. The forum featured three panel discussions with public and private sector experts, and two keynote addresses, delivered by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), the Deputy Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives and European Union Ambassador to the United States John Bruton.
“A strong Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the best interest of consumers and businesses alike; however the agency has been starved for resources in recent years,” said DeGette. “By having an agency that is better able to monitor imports, set enforceable standards, and prevent contamination, we will not only prevent illnesses but restore consumer confidence in the food industry. That is why I have been proud to champion two important food safety priorities – mandatory recall authority that will give the government the power to quickly remove tainted food products from our store shelves , and a national, comprehensive food traceability system, which will enable us to track food products from the ‘farm to the fork.’ These two initiatives will go a long way in ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply.”
During his remarks, Ambassador Bruton discussed a number of ways the international community can come together to achieve strong global food safety standards, including through international harmonization and on a bilateral basis, by establishing standards of equivalence. “We, the EU support the multilateral system of harmonization and we are quite happy about the cooperation which we have with the U.S. in many instances, helping to move things along. But if we are seeking more immediate solutions to imminent trade problems, harmonization cannot be the answer – at least not the only one,” said Bruton. “We need to find ways to build into our bilateral trade regulations the concept of ‘equivalence’ – accepting the idea that safe food can be produced by different combinations of measures.”
The first panel discussion, titled “Perspectives From Multinationals Amid Reform and Globalization,” was moderated by Bob Brackett, Chief Science Officer and SVP, Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the panelists were Henry Chin, Senior Director, Global Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, The Coca-Cola Company, and Tres Bailey, Sr. Manager of Agriculture and Food, Wal-Mart Stores Government Relations.
The second panel,  “Harmonization, a Comparison of Legislative Approaches and Capacity Building Efforts,” was moderated by Paul Young, Waters, Former EU Food Safety Inspector, and featured commentary from three panelists: Wolf Maier, EU Agriculture Attaché; David Acheson, Deputy Commissioner FDA; and Caroline Smith Dewaal, Director Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The final discussion, titled “Impact of China’s Food Safety,” was moderated by Jennifer Turner, Director of the China Environment Forum and the panelists were Drew Thompson, Director of China Studies and Starr Senior Fellow, Nixon Center, and Fred Gale, Senior Economist with the Market and Trade Economics Division of the Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.