Centre for Food Integrity to be launched in Australia

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 10th July 2012

The Center for Food Integrity (CFI), a U.S. not-for-profit organisation established in 2007 to build consumer trust and confidence in the food system, is to be launched in Australia in October 2012.

Some have described the CFI as an organisation with the expertise and credibility to restore public trust in the current food supply system.

Australian farming groups, in particular, have been concerned that public advocacy groups such as animal rights activists have distorted food production issues or taken advantage of semi-informed consumers.

Australian Food News recently interviewed both Geoff Frost, who will lead the Australian Centre for Food Integrity, and Charlie Arnot, CEO of its American-based equivalent, to learn more about it.

The American model

Members of the U.S. Center for Food Integrity represent each segment of the food chain: farmers, universities, food processors, restaurants, retailers and food companies. “One of the things we do well is encouraging collaboration between all stages of the food production chain – agriculture, processing, retail,” Mr Arnot said, emphasizing that the United States CFI doesn’t lobby or advocate on behalf of individual food companies or brands.

The aim of the CFI is to equip people in each segment of the food system with the ability to effectively communicate with consumers on issues of concern. “The aim is to balance the conversation,” said Mr Arnot.

The CFI’s key means of communicating with consumers is via its five websites. The most popular of which, Farmers Feed Us, encourages consumers to engage with information supplied by U.S. farmers. “Consumers have told us they found the farmers knowledgeable, trustworthy, and the sort of people they wanted to have producing their food – that’s very important to us,” Mr Arnot said. The average time spent on Farmers Feed Us, per consumer, is 11 minutes.

Australian Centre for Food Integrity

Geoff Frost, who will lead the Australian Centre for Food Integrity, sees similarities between U.S. and Australian issues of food production which make the CFI relevant to both countries. “There’s a growing interest in food production, which provides an opportunity for those in agriculture to do a better job of informing consumers,” Mr Frost said.

Mr Frost is currently discussing the Australian CFI with agricultural associations, retailers, food companies, packaging companies. “Everybody’s extremely interested,” he said. Representatives from the National Farmers Federation, Australian Pork Ltd, and the Australian Wheat Board are on the Foundation Board of the Australian CFI.

The Victorian and New South Wales Departments of Primary Industries are already “very involved”. After the launch in October 2012, Mr Frost expects Food Standards Australia New Zealand and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to also become involved in the Centre.