Joint Webinar - GHI and IFSA - World Food Safety Day 2024 - Prepare for the Unexpected

Date:7 Jun 2024, Time: 10 am CEST, also 4 pm HKT

Duration: 2 hours

Celebrating food safety globally is crucial for safeguarding public health by preventing foodborne illnesses and ensuring the availability of safe, nutritious food, and supporting food security. It also promotes economic development by reducing the economic burden of foodborne diseases and enhancing access to global markets through stringent food safety standards. Raising awareness educates and empowers consumers to make informed food choices and advocate for higher standards. Additionally, it encourages governments to strengthen regulatory frameworks and fosters international collaboration and innovation in food safety practices, creating a safer and healthier world. In celebration of the working together to improve food safety across the world, the Global Harmonization Initiative (GHI) and the International Food Safety Association (IFSA) are taking this opportunity to host a joint webinar on World Food Safety Day 2024. We will discuss three diverse aspects of food safety and innovation that focus on: 1) probiotics and the health of the human gut, 2) human milk banks - highlighting a regulatory void between health and food and 3) the role of microbial bioeconomy in future global food supply.

Harnessing Probiotics: A New Frontier in Preventing and Managing Foodborne Illnesses

Professor Hoi Shan KWAN, PhD, BBS, JP, Emeritus Professor of School of Life Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Director, HSK GeneTech Limited and Probiolife Limited, Life Honorary Advisor of IFSA

This talk will explore the innovative utilization of probiotics as a proactive measure in the prevention and control of foodborne diseases. Probiotics are defined as “Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host" (WHO). Emerging research has shown that specific strains of probiotics would play a significant role in three areas that are related to foodborne diseases prevention and control: (1) enhancing gut health, (2) boosting the immune system, and (3) directly inhibiting pathogens responsible for foodborne illnesses. I will review the mechanisms by which probiotics interact with both the human and animal hosts and foodborne pathogens, examine the evidence from recent clinical and epidemiological studies, and discuss the implications of probiotics as a complementary strategy in food safety. Additionally, the talk will address the challenges and prospects of integrating probiotics into public health practices and food systems. I will discuss metabolic and immunological pathways through which probiotics exert their effects, case studies demonstrating successful implementation in food industries, and regulatory and guidance frameworks for probiotic use. I aim to provide basic understandings and insights into how probiotics can be effectively harnessed to combat foodborne pathogens and improve public health outcomes.

The Complexity of Regulations for Human Milk

John Points Independent Food Quality Consultant, United Kingdom

There is no more natural and sustainable food than a mother’s milk to her own baby. Throughout history there have been cultures with a tradition of wet-nurses; women who breastfeed others’ babies because the mother is unwilling or unable to do so. In Middle-Ages Europe it was against the social norm for any upper class mother to breastfeed her own baby. Wet-nursing declined in the 20th Century with the advent of infant formula milk and – more latterly –public education in the nutritional benefit of a mother breastfeeding her own baby particularly in its youngest days. The related practice of milk sharing (“co-feeding”) has continued on a small, informal scale with mothers donating their excess expressed milk to local friends or family. This has continued below the regulatory radar in many countries. But platforms such as Facebook Marketplace have lit the regulatory fuse. Mothers are now selling their expressed milk direct to other mothers online. Ethical and safety regulations are struggling to catch up.
This presentation describes a UK business model with the altruistic aim of running a private sector milk bank for the mutual benefit of donors and recipients, giving both the confidence that the process is handled systematically, safely and securely. There were no specific regulatory requirements. Neither food safety management systems nor hospital milkbank regulations were sufficient in our view to underpin safety; an elective bespoke system was therefore developed in-house. The key elements of that system are described. Regulators now face a choice. They can either ban or permit such businesses. If the latter then there is an urgent need for a sector-specific international regulatory framework based on the principles described.

Securing Global Food Systems: Challenges and strategies for ensuring food safety in a globalized world (2028-2030)

Dr. Helen Onyeaka, Associate Professor School of Chemical Engineering, University of Birmingham , United Kingdom, Deputy Director of Birmingham Institute of sustainability and Climate Action, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

In the rapidly evolving landscape of global food security, the role of microbial biotechnology in ensuring the safety and sustainability of food systems is increasingly paramount. This talk will explore groundbreaking research aimed at harnessing microbial processes to enhance the resilience and sustainability of food systems in the face of climatic unpredictability and resource constraints. With the increasing need for achieving economic and environmental sustainability while ensuring food safety for the future, Microbial bio-economy will be at the fore-front of the fight against unpredictable events that will threaten global food safety. Research and innovations in Bioeconomy will bring about increase in food production, increase in crop and animal efficiency, production and use of more efficient biofuels, bioplastics and bioenergy. The Concept of Bioeconomy deals with the production, utilization and conservation of biological resources including related knowledge, science, technology and innovation, to provide information, products, processes and services across all economic sectors aiming towards a sustainable economy. This presentation will explore the roles of microbes in food safety, challenges in the microbial bioeconomy, studies of microbial intervention in food safety and curbing pathogen spread, Preparing for the Unexpected: Microbial Bioeconomy’s Role and the future of food safety and microbial bioeconomy. Despite the numerous challenges the microbial bioeconomy system may face, with limited resources being at the top of such a list, this system holds great promise for sustaining the economy and planet, existing research also serves as a platform for further exploration of improvements in this field.

Speaker 1:
Professor Hoi Shan KWAN, PhD, BBS, JP

Professor KWAN Hoi Shan is Emeritus Professor of the School of Life Sciences. He served The Chinese University of Hong Kong for 35 years (1984 – 2019). He was professor of School of Life Sciences, Dean of Science and Director of Food Research Centre, among numerous other posts. His research interests include molecular biotechnology, genetics and genomics of enteric bacteria, fungi, edible and medicinal mushrooms, plants and marine animals. He has published over 300 refereed papers and abstracts in international journals and conferences. He served on countless committees of the Hong Kong Government and private organisations. Professor Kwan was awarded the Bronze Bauhinia Star (BBS) for his meritorious public and community service, particularly his contribution in promoting food safety and quality assurance. In recent years, Professor Kwan founded HSK Genetech Limited and Probiolife Limited. Focusing on the research on the relationship between microorganisms and human health, these companies launch microbiome testing services, weight management programs, probiotics, and health products to improve the well-beings and health of the community. Professor Kwan is also a Life Honorary Advisor of the International Food Safety Association (IFSA).

Speaker 2:
John Points

John Points is a self-employed consultant from the United Kingdom who tries to make science and compliance relevant and digestible for food businesses. He has experience designing quality systems across a range of industry sectors including pharmaceuticals, food manufacturing and contract laboratory testing. He works with both multinational blue-chip companies and start-ups. Recently, this included designing the quality management system for a commercial milk bank; the subject on which he will speak today. John is also Chair of the Scientific Committee of the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) in the United Kingdom.

Speaker 3:
Dr. Helen Onyeaka

Dr. Helen Onyeaka is a respected Associate Professor in the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham. She boasts over 25 years of experience in academia, focusing on sustainable microbial food security and safety. Her academic journey includes a first degree in Industrial Microbiology, a Master’s in Biomedical Sciences, and a PhD in Biochemical Engineering from the University of Birmingham.
Dr. Onyeaka currently serves as the director of BISCA and holds fellowships and memberships with prestigious organizations such as FIFST, FHEA, IAFP, and the Society of Microbiology UK. Her roles have included Program Director for MSc Food Safety, Hygiene & Management, Research Coordinator, and a leader at the Helix Biogen Institute. She has supervised over 55 M.Sc. projects and is currently the primary supervisor for four PhD students in Chemical Engineering. Dr. Onyeaka has chaired Ph.D. oral examinations and served as an internal examiner. Beyond her research, Dr. Onyeaka is actively involved in teaching and mentorship, covering a wide range of subjects from microbial biotechnology to biochemical engineering principles. She is particularly passionate about incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into the academic environment. Through her courses and public speaking, she advocates for a more inclusive and equitable academic landscape, encouraging the integration of diverse perspectives in both teaching and research.

Chair & Event Moderator:
Dr. Diana Bogueva

Dr. Diana Bogueva, is the newly elected President of the Global Harmonization Initiative. Her background is as a social scientist and journalist with interests in sustainable food consumption, alternative proteins, consumer perception of novel food processing technologies and generational consumer behaviour, food sustainability and harmonization. Diana’s work has won three awards: the Australian National Best Book winner in 2019 and the World’s Best Book award 2020 in the Vegetarian book category at the prestigious 24th and 25th Gourmand Awards, considered equivalent to the Oscars in the area of food books, for her co-edited book ‘Environmental, Health and Business Opportunities in the New Meat Alternatives Market’. She also won the 2020 Faculty of Humanities Journal Article of the Year Award at Curtin University for their co-authored paper “Planetary Health and reduction in meat consumption”, which was at the top 5% of all world research outputs scored by Altmetrics. Diana is also a finalist in the 10th International Book Award at America’s Book Fair 2019 for her co-edited book ‘Handbook of Research on Social marketing and its influence on animal origin food product consumption’. In 2022 Diana published her first co-authored book ‘Food in a Planetary Emergency’ with Professor Dora Marinova. This book is a timely overview of current food systems and the required transformations to respond to climate change, population pressures, biodiversity loss and use of natural resources. And, in May 2023, as a tribute to the authors' efforts, talented writing skills and passion, ‘Food in a Planetary Emergency’ was awarded the 'Best of the Best - The Future of Food Gourmand Award’ at the 28th Award Ceremony. In 2024, Diana's co-authored book 'Nutrition Science, Marketing Nutrition, Health Claims and Public Policy' published by Elsevier, was a finalist for the Association of America publisher's award for the professional and scholarly publishing PROSE award.