The role of science in policy debates
A growing and consistent theme in the policy debates in which the American Bakers Association (ABA) is engaged is the importance of science to fortify our position. This may seem like an oxymoron, but the complexity and technical nature of issues such as revising the dietary guidelines, banning partially hydrogenated oils, reforming GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) and validating the so-called baking kill step all require ABA to bring the best possible science to these discussions.
ABA has a long history of relying on strong scientific fundamentals to strengthen its policy positions and so stands in good stead to continue its reliance upon those fundamentals to achieve success in its policy objectives. We also have increased our support for key research to further grow our capabilities, many times in cooperation with key industry partners.
A great illustration is the research conducted under the direction of the Grain Foods Foundation scientific advisory board. Designed to quantify the value of grains as the biggest bang for the nutrition dollar and the importance of grains in determining health outcomes, the research has far exceeded our expectations. Not only are the results worthy of consideration by top nutrition and medical journals in the world, they will provide a wealth of ammunition in the ongoing dietary guidelines deliberations. At the very least, they allow the industry to stand tall when telling the powerful story about its products.
Similarly, ABA is partnering with AIB International and Kansas State University (KSU) to provide scientific validation of what has been long-time industry knowledge—that the oven temperature during the baking process kills potential pathogens. While it seems obvious to those in the industry, FDA will soon require this scientific validation as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) for each bakery product. The ABA-AIB-KSU partnership is an attempt to provide an industry-wide solution as an alternative to a very costly product-by-product solution.
Another important example is the FDA’s attempt to ban partially hydrogenated oils. ABA’s work with bakers and in consultation with its supplier members has forced FDA to reconsider its proposal. While ABA supports continued efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate trans fat in the American diet, this needs to be accomplished in a common sense, science-based manner.
At a meeting in April with senior FDA officials, ABA’s efforts were starting to bear fruit. As one senior FDA official commented, “The submission of industry data and best practices has given FDA a lot to consider in its approach to partially hydrogenated oils.”
As I look ahead to the issues in which ABA will be engaged in the coming years, I anticipate we will be drawing even more upon the expertise of our AIB, GFF and KSU partners to achieve our policy goals for the industry.