Creme Global at the Dubai International Food Safety Conference

Last week, Cronan McNamara (Creme Global CEO) and I attended the Dubai International Food Safety Conference (DIFSC). The conference has been running for a number of years now, and much like food safety in the gulf region the meeting has been going from strength to strength. This year's conference had a considerable number of high profile speakers from the US, Europe, Asia, with a number of experts from the gulf region also presenting. 

Cronan and I presented at a special session on food additives entitled “Food Additives: Assessing Safety Through a Local Lens”, which was chaired by Professor Alan Reilly, CEO of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Food additives are a hot issue in the Middle East just like anywhere else in the world, with regulatory authorities assuring consumers in the region that food additive use in the food supply is safe and does not endanger human health. To put it more technically, “the risk from the use of food additives is sufficiently low to not pose a concern for human health”. But try getting a consumer to digest that statement! This brings me to the content of our session.  

I was the first to step up and set the scene with a presentation on principles of risk assessment for food additives. I gave an overview of all the elements of risk assessment and how each step applies specifically to food additives. Being a Creme Global presentation, plenty of weight was given to the importance of exposure assessment in risk assessment. Despite advances in current knowledge, much of risk perception is hazard driven in the media at the moment with insufficient understanding of the significance of exposure (but that's for another blog post!). This was a nice segway into Cronan, who followed with a presentation on different approaches that can be taken for exposure assessment of food additives. Rhodri Evans from Exponent then followed with a presentation on the regulatory environment around food additives in Europe, and the session closed with a more regional view by Eng. Mustafa Ali Salma, Food Legislations Specialist from the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority. 

The audience were asked to save all questions until the end, and I must admit the reserved nature of the audience made me worried that there might be an austere silence when the panel was assembled on stage after the presentations were finished. Most encouragingly, I was completely wrong and a lively discussion followed with plenty of questions and comments for all speakers. Rhodri, being an expert in regulatory affairs, bore the brunt of the questions but I was very pleased when someone piped up with a question about the different statistical distributions that can be used to model additive occurrence in food (yes, I live for moments like that).  

There were a number of other interesting sessions at the conference, including a great keynote address by Frank Yiannas (vice president of food safety at Walmart), a chemical risk assessment session by the US EPA and a session on nutrition for high risk populations by Abbott and their experts. Our Dubai hosts were most hospitable, and with the glorious weather there at that time of year we very much look forward to returning next year.


Written by Creme Global on November 26 2014

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