University of Minnesota leads collaboration
on global food safety
Source of Article: http://www1.umn.edu/urelate/newsservice/NS_details.php?release=081119_3824&page=NS
Recent program involved senior officials from China; Bellagio is next -
MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL ( 11/19/2008 ) -- International food safety expert
Will Hueston, professor of veterinary medicine and
public health at the University of Minnesota, is leading efforts to build an
international network of food system leaders focused on food safety and
sustainability. As part of this work, Hueston
recently conducted a program with 19 senior officials from China, at sites in Europe and North America. In early December, he will lead a
three-day work session at the Rockefeller
Center in Italy.
"We want to catalyze new thinking for sustainable food systems around
the world," said Hueston, who is executive
director of a new public-private partnership called the Global Initiative for
Food Systems Leadership (GIFSL). "Our primary goal is to develop an
international leadership network with the expertise and skills to design
sustainable food systems that can provide adequate nutrition to all while
effectively managing emerging issues in the food supply at local, national
and international levels."
GIFSL has received leadership and financial support from Cargill, General
Mills, the Rockefeller Foundation and SSAFE (Safe Supply of Affordable Food
Everywhere), as well as funding from the university. Numerous other
intergovernmental organizations, food industry companies and academic
institutions are contributing expertise and in-kind support as participating
partners. GIFSL programs are conducted at sites around the world, providing
experiential learning, networking, sharing of best practices, and other
opportunities for collaboration.
The International Food Safety Administration program recently brought brought together 19 senior Chinese food safety officials
from industry, government and academia. They spent two weeks in Europe and North America meeting with international policy
experts, visiting food facilities, and interacting with stakeholders from
public, private and academic organizations. Cargill, General Mills and the
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) were partners. In
March, Cargill signed a Memorandum of Understanding with General
Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) of
the People's Republic of China
to formally launch the technical exchange program.
Hueston said the central themes of the China program
were that communication and shared goals are key to
ensuring international food safety, that there is no silver bullet or single
perfect system for doing so, and that food safety is the responsibility of
everyone involved in the food chain. "Participants agreed that food
safety is an obligation, not an option," he said.
The December work session at the Rockefeller
Center in Italy will focus on how to create
a dynamic leadership model to address global public health and food system
challenges across international communities and cultures. The meeting will
bring together scientists, physicians, lawyers, veterinarians and consumer
activists to share insights and perspectives from Africa, Asia, Europe, North
America, South America and the Caribbean.
"It is important to build a network of people who share a common
vision and have common skills for producing and moving food safely around the
world," said Mike Robach, vice president of
Cargill's Food Safety and Regulatory Affairs, and president of SSAFE.
Cargill gave $2 million to the university to launch GIFSL and establish
the endowed Chair for Global Food System Leadership, which is held by Will Hueston. General Mills has helped to fund GIFSL programs
through a gift of $1 million to the university.
Educational partners in the initiative include the University of Helsinki,
Finland, the National University of Uruguay and the Gates
Foundation-funded School of Global Animal Health at Washington State
University. Several University of Minnesota centers participate in
GIFSL, including the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety, recently
recognized as a key facilitator for global veterinary services
capacity-building by the World Organization for Animal Health.
The University of Minnesota collaborated with the University of Helsinki
on an international workshop on food safety control last month, where
government officials and researchers from 13 countries looked at ways to
evaluate whether or not various food safety measures work when implemented at
the national or global level. In 2008, GIFSL programs attracted participants
from more than 35 countries.
of Minnesota is
uniquely positioned to lead this effort because of its experience convening
multi-disciplinary private industry, academia, and public agency stakeholders
around a common goal. Examples include the National Center
for Food Protection and Defense. The center, funded by the Department of
Homeland Security and led by the university, is a public-private partnership
developing successful new strategies for increased protection of the nation's
"Our hope is that bringing disparate stakeholders together in
noncompetitive settings to share information and best practices will accelerate
collaboration across boundaries to reduce starvation and malnutrition,
strengthen the agricultural stability and sustainability of developing
countries and improve food safety and public health around the world,"