Mars, Inc. wants to work with other companies within the food and beverage industry to address some of the leading issues affecting food safety and the global supply chain. With the opening of the company’s new Global Food Safety Center outside of Beijing, the company has created a site where its executives say pre-competitive research and training may take place.

“There has been and there will be a lot of collaboration in food and agriculture,” said Harold Schmitz, chief science officer for Mars, in an interview with Food Business News. “But there are areas that need uncommon collaboration, and one of those areas is food safety. With the global supply chain in mind we need to better understand food pathogens, the environment the pathogens exist in, and then how that affects the global supply chain.

“In other business sectors, like biomedical research, we are seeing advances in genomics and the use of computational analysis to handle large sets of data. We need to apply the same ideas to food. That is what I mean by uncommon collaboration.”

Ninety-five per cent of the work done at the Global Food Safety Center will be pre-competitive and available to anyone who is interested, said Mr. Schmitz.

“It is our belief that it is in everyone’s best interest for the market to be safe,” Mr. Schmitz said. “No one company will gain a significant advantage over a competitor with these efforts.”

Mr. Schmitz said what led Mars’ leadership team to approve the $15 million investment in the research center is globalization and its effects on the supply chain.

“The food safety challenges we have today are different from the ones we had 20 years ago,” he said. “In addition, knowledge about microbial food pathogens and technology have advanced profoundly. We can think about food safety in a different way than we have in the past from an industry and regulatory perspective. With the global supply chain, we feel it’s time for someone to take a fresh look at food safety.”

Industry-wide collaboration is not a new initiative for Mars. The company has a long relationship with the University of California at Davis where it worked with other companies and groups to sequence the cocoa genome.

“That’s a great example of how we work with others,” Mr. Schmitz said. “By working together we created an infrastructure where we could accomplish a goal that benefits everyone.”