Food Safety / Columns

Retiring AIB Leader Leaves an Enduring Legacy

With 2012 barely underway, the American Institute of Baking (AIB) International is bracing for the loss of an iconic leader. At the same time, we are embracing the impact of new regulations and other ongoing changes in the global food industry. Newly retired Bill Pursely, vice president, food safety education, has made a fundamental and foundational contribution as the voice, heart and soul of AIB International’s food safety audits and education business. After nearly 32 years of helping food companies understand and manage food safety good manufacturing practices and prerequisite programs, educating thousands of students on the importance of their role in keeping the food supply safe, influencing industry decision makers and touching so many people with his great stories and laughter, Pursley is beginning a new adventure as a retired professional. His career mission statement is one that AIB is proud to carry on in his absence: Food safety is non-negotiable and only can be achieved through a healthy balance of rigorous programs and human behaviors.

That balance has become more magnified in recent years as industry trends are influenced by demanding schematics and record-keeping activities. Food companies across the globe—from big names to the smallest family-owned operations—are working full speed ahead to align with requirements imparted through Global Food Safety Initiative schemes and the Food Safety Modernization Act. But what is the cost? In the wake of these dramatic changes, has the industry begun to lose sight of the human aspect of food safety? Although AIB has taken a progressive approach toward adapting to these regulatory- and client-imposed changes, we also hold firm that plant inspections and ongoing education at all employee levels are the only true ways to determine whether food sanitation and safety are being taken seriously.

Pursley is probably most well known in the food industry as an advocate for the importance of the human component. Although the science of food safety systems—namely programs and records—is certainly an important factor in any organization, the key to achieving success is to create and sustain a culture of food safety in a food plant workforce. This involves imparting passion and integrity for food safety into the workforce through education…not just training. It is explaining why a process or procedure is important…not just teaching how it is done.

It is Pursely’s unrelenting honesty, convictions and business ethics that have fostered the high level of respect AIB enjoys within the food industry. Although AIB regrets losing such an iconic leader who has been part of our company’s heart and soul for so many years, we are honored to carry on his mission of making progressive strides toward food safety based on a balance of science and people.  

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