With the introduction of the first four standards taking effect this past January, what has been the initial response from the industry?
Ms. Biegel: Most of the response/questions coming from the industry have been requests for clarification on how AIB is going to interpret specifics of their programs as they update their policies and procedures to meet the changes in the standards. The majority of these questions have been related to updating their programs to meet the F.S.M.A. (Food Safety Modernization Act) rule and more specifically, complying with HARPC (Hazard Analysis Risk-Based Preventive Controls).
Can you highlight two or three of the most significant changes that were incorporated in the updated standards, and how they might impact the food industry going forward?
Ms. Biegel: There are two significant changes in the standards that impact most of the AIB clientele. With the changes in regulation and the recent very significant food safety recalls impacting the industry, the addition of the F.S.M.A. requirements, which include HARPC, to the standards for both our domestic and international customers, has been a significant change. We have also added more language around identification and control of raw materials, work in process, and finished products subject to pathogen testing.
What were the biggest challenges in getting the standards up to date?
Ms. Biegel: The biggest challenges in updating the standards were determining how to capture the impending regulatory changes from F.S.M.A., the change in focus to development of risk-based food safety programs, and incorporating international requirements into the update. As the industry is well aware, not everything in relation to F.S.M.A. and its interpretations has been finalized and it is not practical to update the standards every time there is a change. The challenge is to balance our efforts in a way that allows us to update standards in the midst of regulatory changes, yet provide guidance to the industry on how these new regulations impact expectations for implementing a robust food safety program.
Does AIB plan to get the remaining seven standards updated by the end of 2013? Will it be easier/more difficult than updating the first four?
Ms. Biegel: The short answer is yes. AIB plans to update the seven remaining standards with a roll out date of Jan. 1, 2014. We expect the update of the last seven to be smoother than the first four. The biggest challenge with updating and rolling out the last seven is the volume of requirements to be updated also in light of F.S.M.A., and the critical element of considering our international customer base.