The firm will work with the FAO to make food safer globally but especially in developing countries.
Dave Crean, Mars vice president of corporate research & development, said working with the FAO it hopes to address some of the fundamentals, especially in developing countries where food safety issues continue to cause devastation.
“Our work will involve promoting international standards for food safety and quality, improving food safety management to reduce illness caused by unsafe food, as well as improving global access to information,” he told FoodQualityNews.
“Our role will be to share our expertise and data, supporting FAO to address food safety issues in particular, aflatoxins, continue to devastate millions of lives, bringing devastating illness and destroying the economic value of crops.”
An important action step
Crean said the agreement with FAO was an important step towards doing something about the crisis and helping to ensure a safer food supply chain.
“We believe that it’s only through open, collaborative, multi-discipline approaches like this that we can address the problem in a meaningful way,” he said.
“We will identify specific projects where FAO believes we can add value and each of those projects will be carefully structured with milestones to ensure that we can measure progress and deliver the right contribution.”
He added unsafe food kills thousands of people every day and damages the economies of developing nations in serious, lasting ways.
When asked about the gaps that mean food is not safe and sustainable, Crean said they fall into areas of access to capability, training, having the right tools and infrastructure.
“The reason sometimes that food is not safe and sustainable is these things are not in place or the food supply chain is not sufficiently robust. Our view is that food safety isn’t sufficiently highlighted when people talk about food and many people assume it’s a given,” he said.
The food industry and public policy officials met in Rome at the UN FAO’s Committee on Food Security (CFS42) to discuss food safety and Mars had a side-event on industry collaboration.
It focused on improving industry and government combining to tackle food safety.
Experts from the Ghanaian Ministry of Food & Agriculture, the World Food Programme, PACA, the FAO, and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) joined Mars to discuss ways to eliminate the threat of aflatoxins in the food chain - which cause deaths and illness and destroy crops.
The Private Sector Mechanism (PSM) provides a permanent seat for the broad agri-business value chain at the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and is the only portal for the business community to influence the outcome of policy development of the UN CFS.
The side-event was co-sponsored by the Governments of Liberia, Ghana, Sudan and the African Union Commission Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA).
It was the only one of three private sector side events accepted, and represented one of 40 held by other sectors such as the civil society, foundations, philanthropic organisations and NGOs.
Since the 2014 International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) and the 193 member states’ adoption of the Rome Declaration and a Framework for Action, the UN CFS has taken on increased responsibilities as a significant player in food security, nutrition and food safety, said Mars.
With adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN General Assembly in September, UN CFS has been assigned greater roles in linking those goals that relate to nutrition, safety and sustainable agriculture to their focus.
Ren Wang, assistant director-general of FAO’s Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, said partnership with the private sector to improve food safety globally is critical.
“FAO recognizes this and engages with the food industry at national and international levels to both leverage and disseminate knowledge that will promote effective food safety practices along the food chain,” he said.
“Partnership with Mars can strengthen our message to countries that food safety is best achieved through effective public-private partnership.”
Another partnership and Mars’ other work
The World Trade Organization (WTO) and the FAO will also work together on trade and food safety.
The two organizations will look into how sanitary and phytosanitary standards and food safety can facilitate trade and promote development, including a joint publication next year.
Roberto Azevêdo, WTO director-general, said: “The WTO and the FAO have quite different mandates, but we have many shared aims.
“I think it's clear that trade and the multilateral trading system can help in creating a more favourable environment for food security, food safety and sustainable agriculture.”
This year Mars has opened the Global Food Safey Center in China, partnered with the World Food Programme (WFP) and IBM among other work and Crain said it had thought about partners and the spaces it needs to operate to meet food safety challenges.
“The IBM-Mars Consortium for sequencing the food supply chain represents a very different opportunity – it’s about method development, exploring new frontiers of science and the application of that to specific new tests,” he said.
“Our work with WFP and FAO is much more about interventions and thinking about the types of interventions, particularly in developing markets. We see all these as being related, and consistently within our strategic work streams in the area of the food safety.”