Advocacy Attends the Global Food Safety Conference

During the week of April 7, 2024, the Office of Advocacy (Advocacy) Assistant Chief Counsel for Food, Drug, and Health Affairs, Linwood Rayford, attended the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) conference held in Singapore. The GFSI conference is held annually and is attended by the world’s leading food safety experts from retail, manufacturing, and food service companies, as well as international organizations, governments, academia, and service providers to the global food industry.

Linwood Rayford standing in the lobby with a Welcome to GFSI Conference sign behind him.

Linwood Rayford at the GFSI Conference in Singapore

This important conference fits neatly into Advocacy’s small business watchdog role for many reasons.

From a regulatory perspective, Advocacy has played an important role in ensuring that the nation’s food supply remains safe. In 2011, this became particularly relevant after the enactment of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Advocacy worked closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as it drafted and finalized food safety regulations designed to comply with FSMA’s mandates. These efforts included review and input on the numerous FSMA regulations. In addition, Advocacy engaged in small stakeholder outreach to educate small food producers, retailers, and importers on the various aspects of the rules as well as to gather their input on the impacts they faced while implementing the regulations.

Further, in 2016, Congress passed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, which established a new role for Advocacy. This role is to facilitate greater consideration of small business issues, challenges, and opportunities in foreign trade. This new Congressional mandate has allowed Advocacy to combine its regulatory efforts under FSMA with its outreach to small food import businesses that are charged with ensuring the safety of food products acquired from foreign suppliers.

Advocacy’s attendance at the GFSI conference helps advance its ability to intelligently participate in future food safety rulemaking and to interact with small food businesses seeking to compete in an increasingly interconnected world. As the U.S. and other foreign governments seek to harmonize global food standards, the information garnered from the conference will help small food entities understand and become certified in the food safety regulatory requirements so that the world’s food supply will be safe for everybody.

The 2024 GFSI Conference – Meeting the Needs of our Evolving World explored approaches that build Earth’s food safety capabilities through innovation, global cooperation, and a commitment to environmental stewardship. In an era marked by significant technological breakthroughs, the conference brought together many of the critical actors in the food safety ecosystem to share insights into how technology is helping to shape innovative solutions to long-standing food safety problems and discuss potential solutions to future challenges.

The conference’s technological focus was on the benefits and trials associated with artificial intelligence (AI), supply chain improvements, and food security and waste caused by global warming. Attendees also discussed improving mechanisms for food traceability in an ongoing effort to improve food safety.

Most of the food industry sectors discussed at the conference were comprised of small businesses, and the outreach to those small entities was paramount to the overall goal of food safety. Specific small business topics included:

  • An obligation to help small and medium food operators to upscale their operations to enhance food safety. This can be effectuated in many ways, including through GFSI’s Global Markets Program.
  • Focusing on small businesses currently in the pre-certification stage and helping them progress to full certification.
  • Small entities struggling to integrate the use of AI because of up-front costs. It is incumbent on large businesses to share their data on the use of AI which will benefit small businesses in food production and efficiency.
  • Small businesses’ vitality to a robust global food supply chain. To support small businesses, systems must exist that will reduce paperwork and increase transparency. This can be accomplished by improving food traceability, especially using DNA identification.
  • The importance of retailers working with farmers and suppliers to avoid food safety and supply chain problems. Improvements in food traceability will help them accomplish this goal.

Food safety is a concern that affects everyone in the world. The Office of Advocacy strives to raise awareness and pertinent regulatory information for small food businesses that compete in this important sector. For more information regarding food safety-related issues, please email Linwood Rayford at