Food Systems Leadership

About Global Iniative for Food Systems Leadership


December 2011


Imagine a treatment that’s more damaging than the disease. When H5N1 re-emerged in Southeast Asia in 2003, some leaders became concerned that the world’s response might create more damage to global food systems than avian influenza itself. Despite statements by the United State’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization that “no evidence that any human cases of avian influenza have been acquired by eating poultry products”, response to the disease involved “stamping out”, the killing of poultry in an area encompassing confirmed cases, and broad bans on the movement of all poultry and poultry products in the region.

This type of response to an H5N1 outbreak in the U.S. could fuel public perception that poultry products are dangerous and disrupt the continuity of “just-in-time” food supply chains, resulting in the unnecessary destruction of valuable animal protein and potentially create public health issues like depression and suicide as a result of jobs lost and businesses bankrupted. Out of this concern has grown a dynamic public-private-academic partnership with the goal of effectively responding to avian influenza and minimizing the unintended negative consequences to the food system, public health and business continuity. Together a working group involving upwards of 35 people has held teleconferences every two weeks for more than five years to create the Secure Egg Supply plan, which is now embraced by the US government and a growing number of states. The plan includes proactive risk assessments, preparedness tools and egg movement protocols in order to limit the spread of avian influenza and identify products that can continue to move in the face of an outbreak with negligible risk to animal health.

The Secure Egg Supply plan reflects the contributions of GIFSL and its sister organization, the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS), at the University of Minnesota. GIFSL’s focus has been leadership capacity-building and public private partnership development. CAHFS demonstrates these skills and partnerships in action through support of the process and risk assessments. In this and future issues of One-to-One, we’ll highlight some of the exciting outcomes when leadership capacity building skills are combined with partnership engagement and technical expertise.

One message came through loud and clear in our survey of readers: “More pieces on hot topics in food safety and leadership…” We hope you find this issue reflects that we have heard your input.