The European Fresh Produce Association (Freshfel) and the European Sprouted Seeds Association have teamed up to ensure the industry is best prepared to face future crises.
On Sept. 2, more than 200 industry and public sector stakeholders from across Europe and beyond gathered at ESSA and Freshfel Europe’s Food Crisis Management Event to analyze former as well as hypothetical food crisis situations, the lessons learnt from them, and best crisis response approaches.
Business operators, crisis management experts, national authorities and European Commission officials discussed the reputational damage and health hazards that food crises have represented. Participants were then challenged to react to two future scenarios, one of which inspired by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is no such thing as zero risk,” said Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard. “Priority should therefore be to work collectively towards the prevention of crises and be prepared to act if a crisis occurs.”
Binard added that transparency plays a big role in crisis management.
“It is based on a long-term confidence between public and private stakeholders. During the crisis and recovery period, good and consistent communication is essential. All stakeholders involved in a crisis should set up communication tools among each other as well as to the public. European and national authorities play a big role in informing the public as well as in restoring consumers’ confidence. Open collaboration is therefore a key element of successful crisis management and prevention.”
As a multi-level and multi-sectorial event, the Food Crisis Management Event showcased ESSA and Freshfel Europe’s commitment to facilitate structures and coordination within and between private companies, sectorial associations and institutions dedicated to food crisis management.
The long-term vision of the organisers is to foster cooperation between stakeholders to better manage potential future crises in the agri-food sector, with a view to further developing effective crisis strategies, and raising awareness of crisis management good practices.
The meeting reviewed, with the support experts, the management of former food crisis situations, namely food hygiene and food fraud cases.
It also dedicated discussions to hypothetical future crisis scenarios and how they should be managed by actors across the supply chain in conjunction with national authorities and the European Commission. Inspired by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the last panel discussion focused on the role of misinformation in the management of food crises.