More than 200 senior business leaders from world renowned, blue-chip organizations in the building care, retail, lodging, and food and beverage industries attended the recent Risk Management Summit arranged by Diversey, now a part of Sealed Air. The Summit was held at the Amsterdam RAI Conference Centre on May 10, 2012.

In an age when the chance of acquiring a hospital acquired infection (HAI) in developed countries is 30 percent and considerably higher in the Third World; when 0.1 percent of all salmonella cases result in death; and the threat posed by pandemics is more global than at any other point in human history, all participants welcomed Diversey's timely initiative in convening the Summit.  The attendees, who were drawn from 18 different countries, heard world class presentations from global leaders such as ISS, Metro, Coca Cola, Compass Group, AutoGrill and McDonalds.  Lively and fiercely debated panel sessions added different and often conflicting viewpoints on a diverse and topical range of food safety and labor safety challenges in the workplace.

While welcoming the increased attention that the Summit and other initiatives were putting on Risk Management, speakers at the event had markedly different views on what the key issues in food safety and labor safety were and how these challenges should be tackled. The results of live polling of delegates at key moments during the Summit confirmed the divergence of opinion on the major threats and the optimum strategies to mitigate or eliminate these risks.

Specifically with regard to food safety, when asked what is the single biggest challenge for the food distribution chain, three different answers dominated. A majority of 55.8 percent named the complexity of differing regulations across borders, a vocal 13 percent were strongly critical of the sheer cost of implementing food safety measures while for 31.2 percent the crux of the matter was the practicalities of ensuring collaboration between all parties in the food chain from farm to fork.

When polled on what was the biggest opportunity for food safety compliance, attendees recognized technology as the greatest enabler (40 percent) while common regulations and common sourcing were also popular choices as the single most important factor for 34.3 percent and 25.7 percent of attendees respectively. Staggeringly, some 18.7 percent of attendees admitted they did not consider, and therefore were not focusing on infection control as a food safety risk or a threat to their businesses.

This lack of foresight and preparedness drew comment from Pedro Chidichimo, President at Sealed Air Corporation, who said: "At Sealed Air, we create solutions that protect and enhance the food and beverage supply chain ensuring products are processed, sold and prepared in a safe and efficient environment. We are also actively engaged in improving productivity, efficiency, and consistent brand experience while reducing our customers' risks by integrating cleaning and hygiene solutions, food packaging and food safety knowledge."

"We know how to protect what's important and every day we see the benefit that having the correct people, processes and safety products in place brings throughout the food service industry.  Given the role that risk management must play in business strategy, it is absolutely inexplicable that there is any business that is not making this a major focus and ensuring that their systems are not as risk-free as it is possible to be."

Consensus was also difficult to find between speakers and in attendees opinions when it came to matters concerning the Summit's second main strand -Labor Safety and The Virtuous Circle of Efficiency and Safety.

Surprisingly when asked what the biggest challenge they faced on labor safety was, only 33 percent of attendees said reducing injuries was the biggest challenge – trailing behind 52.2 percent voting for increased employee engagement as their biggest challenge. Perhaps more positively, 52.7 percent saw improving the consistency of customer service as the prime result of improved labor safety, ahead of the other popular answers of optimizing operational productivity and reducing employee downtime.

All materials, presentations from the Risk Management Summit and a short video overview of the event are available to view or download, free of charge, at