When AIB International defends its role as an auditor as largely an educational one rather than policing food manufacturers, the message should resonate powerfully with bakers. After all, the roots of AIB are in education, helping generation after generation of bakers master the craft that helps feed hundreds of millions in this nation and around the globe. When the Institute’s audit and School of Baking functions are added to its wide ranging labeling assistance, formulation capabilities and the other research and technical services, one is reminded of the degree to which baking’s vitality and the AIB have been linked for 90 years, much to the industry’s benefit.
Just as any school should step back and review its practices and policies when one of its students is involved in a tragic accident or a crime, so should AIB International under the guidance of its board of trustees. But neither the baking and food industry, the AIB nor the public are well served when the Institute becomes a scapegoat in the wake of the Peanut Corporation of America incident.
Independent experts have said principal fault for the environment leading to the P.C.A. and the recent wave of related food safety incidents lies with Congress and the Executive branch. This observation makes the heavily publicized fingerpointing at AIB by Representative Henry Waxman of California and others in government particularly galling. Expanded activities by AIB and other auditors may have helped fill the breach precipitated by the neglect of the Food and Drug Administration, but independent auditors should never substitute for the enforcement power of government.
Making the nation’s food supply safer requires a correct diagnosis of the current problems. No thoughtful analysis foresees improved food safety in the years ahead without a major role for third-party auditors helping food companies hone their own food safety practices. Indeed, that is largely an educational role. With support from bakers, AIB will continue to play a prominent — if not the leading — part in this function.