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Forum 'will rebuild NZ's food safety image'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A Dunedin woman has accepted the challenge to help rebuild New Zealand’s food safety image.

Dr Helen Darling, a founder of a company which pioneers global food verification systems, is bringing up to 200 delegates to Otago to address the perception that New Zealand must improve its food safety standards.

The Global Food Safety Forum traditionally meets in Beijing but Dr Darling has persuaded the US based, not-for-profit organisation, to hold it in New Zealand from November 13-15.

A strong emphasis will be to consider and seek solutions to the next crisis before it occurs.

"With food safety, prevention is better than cure. We will look at emerging threats and ways to address them before they become a problem to our producers and for trade."

"This is a breakthrough conference and it’s essential to acknowledge that New Zealand has been caught out on a number of occasions. Therefore the dialogue and interaction at this forum must be focused on preventing further issues."

However she emphasises that New Zealand has excellent food safety systems but the perception is that this country is failing in some areas.

"One of the aims of the forum is to right that perception. We are bringing key Chinese and American delegates to Dunedin to see our food safety procedures at first hand," Dr Darling says.

"The forum is where dialogue between both ends of the supply chain to improve transparency and integrity can take place."

She explains that New Zealand producers must understand what the Chinese, in particular, require of them.

"This is an area where we need to be more effective. If we don’t have an understanding of what they need in terms of food production and safety standards, we’re not going to get more orders," Dr Darling says.

"We anticipate about 30 influential Chinese producers, regulators, government representatives and media will be present."

Dr Darling explains it’s a unique opportunity for New Zealand multi-nationals, producers, exporters and people involved in the food safety chain to attend and benefit from the conference.

During the two days of the forum, to be held at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, issues such as the validation of multi-industry standards, tighter certification procedures and quality controls can be discussed through workshops and formal networking sessions. A number of important case studies will be presented to stimulate dialogue at these sessions.

The government has recognised the significance of the forum. It will be opened by the Minister of Trade, Tim Groser, who will deliver a keynote address.

Dr Darling believes that, as well as creating a climate for collaboration, understanding and a mutual desire to anticipate and address emerging issues, there’ll be the opportunity for "business to flow."

"The timing is crucial for New Zealand. The forum is when we can seize the moment to rebuild our image resulting from the damage surrounding our food safety brand."

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