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Historically, AIB has done a great job, but its auditing program needs to be reviewed and some changes made to make it a more effective and valuable resource.
That’s the summary by Kenneth “Chip” Klosterman, chairman of the American Bakers Association and president and CEO of Klosterman Baking Co., Cincinnati.
In the wake of the salmonella-tainted peanut scandal involving the Peanut Corp. of America, Klosterman notes that the long-established reputation of AIB International and its auditing program has taken a hit due to recent media reports and congressional hearings.
Specifically, AIB’s auditing program has been widely criticized for giving PCA’s facilities a “superior” rating when the plants were producing peanut products that were eventually recalled. However, AIB’s supporters note that there is little the Manhattan, Kan.-based institution or other third-party auditors can do when a company may have been purposely and allegedly hiding information.
“AIB has done a tremendous job for the food industry and the baking industry for the last 50 or 60 years. It concerns me that the wonderful job that they have done could be tarnished by this issue, especially when you have a company that has intentionally misled the public and AIB about [its] food safety program and practices,” Klosterman says.
“Now that said,” he adds, “AIB should review how PCA received a top rating when these things were going on.”
Currently, there are numerous federal and state investigations exploring PCA and the actions by its plants.
Robb MacKie, ABA’s president and CEO, stresses that the United States has the “best food safety regime in the entire world, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.”
“Unfortunately, we have all been painted by the brush of a bad actor,” MacKie says. “We have to do everything that we can to ensure that the consumer has the ultimate confidence in their food -- that the mom going to the grocery store [or restaurant chain] knows that what they buy is safe for their kids.”
In response to the massive recalls, Congress has introduced a spate of legislation designed at strengthening the nation’s food safety program. Some legislators, in fact, have called for the creation of an independent single agency to handle food safety matters.
In hindsight, much of these recently introduced bills would not have resulted in a different outcome in the recent peanut recalls, says Lee Sanders, ABA’s senior vice president, government relations and policy affairs.
“None of the bills would have prevented this from happening,” she notes. “Anyone who intentionally wants to deceive will find a way.”
“ABA has for several years called attention to the fact that despite a significantly increased mission and scope, FDA’s resources have continued to decline,” said MacKie. “Again last week, ABA called for adequate funding for FDA while applauding President Obama for asking for $1 billion in new FDA funding for food. Not to denigrate the legislative efforts, but adequate funding of the current regime would do more to ensure food safety far more quickly.”
Personally, Klosterman notes, he would like to see continued improvements in food safety.
“What I have seen driven by AIB, driven by this industry and driven by our customers in retail and foodservice has raised the bar every year in terms of food safety and food security,” he says. “AIB inspections are better today than they were last year, and they will probably be even better tomorrow and in the future.
“That said,” he adds, “there needs to be some changes made, and there is room for improvement, but let’s not forget the work that AIB has done and continues to do for many, many food suppliers and companies.”