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Founded in 2004 as a joint activity of the US-based Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) International Division and the European Federation of Food Science and Technology (EFFoST), the Global Harmonization Initiative (GHI) is a network of scientific organizations and individual scientists working together to promote harmonization of global food safety regulations and legislation.
GHI's objective is to achieve consensus on the science of food regulations and legislation to ensure the global availability of safe and wholesome food products for all consumers. GHI facilitates global discussion about the scientific issues that support decisions made by national governments and international regulatory bodies by:
GHI anticipates that the elimination of regulatory differences through sound science-based decision-making will make it more attractive for the private sector to invest in food safety and R&D, consequently strengthening the competitiveness of each nation's food industry and of the industries supplying the food sector. Harmonizing global regulations will aid in the uptake and application of new technologies, as well as encourage the food industry to invest in technologies to ensure the safety and quality of the food supply for consumers worldwide. For public health agencies responsible for overseeing the safety of the international food supply, harmonization of food safety and quality standards and regulations will bring a higher level of confidence that risk-reduction strategies and food safety measures are effective, that decisions taken are based on science and not on underlying political agendas that may be in conflict with public health goals, and that available resources are allocated where they have the highest impact on the most pressing foodborne disease-related problems.
GHI has legal non-profit entity status and its charter and constitution are registered in Vienna, Austria as the GHI Association (ZVR: 453446383). GHI develops and manages its consensus-building activities according to the organizational structure shown at left. While oversight is provided by the Executive Committee, issues are identified and prioritized by the general membership at workshops held at various locations throughout the world. Experts approve consensus statements to ensure impartiality prior to release.
In order to build consensus among scientists on global harmonization of food safety regulations, GHI organizes member meetings, workshops and symposia to further its collaborative work and to provide educational out reach to key stakeholders. In 2009, GHI held working group meetings in the U.S., The Netherlands, India, China, and the Czech Republic, and will hold meetings in Hungary, Mexico, and the U.S. in the latter half of the year. Workshops are also planned for locations in Turkey, South Africa and the U.S. in 2010. As part of its efforts to provide tools and science-based guidance for promoting harmonization of food safety laws and regulations, GHI’s Working Groups continually collect and evaluate available data to produce consensus proposals or statements related to controversies and issues in science and regulations of food. With support and participation of its individual members and member organizations, GHI has formulated approaches to critically (re-)evaluate the scientific evidence used to support existing global regulations in the areas of product composition, processing operations, and technologies or measures designed to prevent foodborne illness. Current GHI Working Group efforts include:
GHI actively encourages scientists from industry, government and academia working in the field of food safety to join as individual members at no cost in order to build a truly global, impartial consensus on the current scientific knowledge that will inform objective legislative and regulatory decision-making on the world stage. This no-fee threshold for enrollment means that GHI members hail from every continent and every key food protection stakeholder group, allowing GHI access to a broad global scientific and regulatory knowledge base. This globally diverse, independent expertise creates the basis from which GHI formulates workable, scientifically sound and politically impartial consensus statements that will have a positive impact on global harmonization efforts.
GHI members have published a number of papers on the subject of food law and regulation harmonization. A full list can be viewed at GlobalHarmonization.net. Most recently, the organization’s first book, Ensuring Global Food Safety: Exploring Global Harmonization, will be published in November 2009 by Elsevier Science Publishers. The book features 24 chapters contributed by a veritable Who’s Who in the field of global food safety, and is designed to demonstrate why scientific consensus on global harmonization is needed, and to provide examples and science-based tools for improving legislation and regulation. The intended audience includes food producers, packagers, new product development scientists and those involved with the international distribution of foods, who must understand the issues and concerns that both surround - and can be addressed by - global harmonization of food safety regulations, as well as government and industry professionals who are responsible for public health policies and must also consider and evaluate key concerns in order to establish appropriate and realistic strategies for improving food safety around the world.
In order to ensure that members are able to act with impartiality and independently of government organizations or other agencies in providing their expert scientific assessment on key regulatory issues, financial support for GHI’s basic operational costs is contributed solely by scientifically independent organizations and universities. The following organizations currently provide financial or in-kind support of GHI’s activities:
GHI offers Individual Scientist Memberships to professionals in the discipline of food science and technology working in all food safety stakeholder groups, including industry, government, academia, and technology developers. Individual scientist members shall be asked for comments on consensus statements. Individual members give opinions based on their personal scientific insights, and these are not to be considered representative of their organization’s views or policies. To enable global participation without financial hurdles, individual scientist members do not pay membership fees. An online enrollment form is available here.