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08 September, 2020 Industry News

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Global F&B Industry, ENG Webinar

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Global F&B Industry, ENG Webinar

On August 13, the INC attended the European Networking Group (ENG) Global Food Safety webinar ‘The impact of COVID-19 on quality in the global F&B industry’, which brought together about 40 representatives of Food and Beverage companies and organizations.

The webinar was moderated by Mr. Jonathan Walsh, EMEA Application Microbiologist, Food Safety EMEA, 3M. The speakers, Ms. Natasa Matyasova, VP, Head of Quality Management, Nestle; Mr. John Carter, Area Europe Quality Director, Ferrero; and Mr. Gideon Ashworth, Head of Food Defense, Bart Ingredients, discussed and shared their personal experiences about different topics, such as contingency plans to ensure a secure supply chain, social distancing in food production, movement restrictions at some borders, supply chain risk mitigation assessment, and communication management during the crisis.
Luckily for the F&B industry, COVID-19 is not a foodborne disease. The speakers highlighted the rapid response by international organizations such as the World Health Organization, as well as the different national authorities and inspection bodies in order to provide the aid and flexibility needed in the context of the pandemic. As the F&B sector is considered an essential industry worldwide, this made it possible to ensure food commodities to the consumers. However, in some cases, it was necessary to contact with local authorities to help local suppliers to get the license to operate. For example, packaging materials are not strictly a food commodity but extremely necessary for the F&B industry.
The panel agreed that it was not possible to have contingency plans prepared for a pandemic like this and the key for success is flexibility. The F&B industry has to react very fast to the changes and adapt to the new circumstances. The sector has had to impose new measures and it is important to invest in communication and educational programs to reach out to employees and create confidence in the workplace environment.
Due to the impossibility of carrying out physical inspections, trust in suppliers, documents, analysis… is more important than ever. However, under no circumstances food safety has to be compromised. The industry should reinforce its internal controls and learn how the use of new technologies (drones, cameras, online tools, apps) can help to guarantee a high standard of safety.
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