At the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) in 2016, the topic of food safety dominated the event as bakers awaited the Food Safety Modernization Act’s (FSMA) roll-out. Suppliers introduced reengineered equipment, and speakers forecasted the regulations’ effects. Three years later, FSMA’s mystique has waned, and bakers are looking to refine their food safety programs and enhance their staff’s knowledge on the subject.

This year’s IBIE, to be held Sept. 7-11, with an education-only day on Sept. 7, will tackle these evolving concerns at the education session Food Safety Best Practices for Operations, Engineers, and Sanitarians led by Alfonso Capuchino, general manager, AIBI Certification Services; Karl Thorson, global food safety and sanitation manager, General Mills; and AIB International's Leonard Steed, manager food safety services North America; Stephanie Lopez, vice-president operations, Americas; and Earl Arnold, global quality manager, food defense and FSMA. The program includes an overview of food safety challenges facing plants today and four breakout sessions that take a deep dive into Global Food Safety Initiative benchmarks, risk mitigation and sanitary design.

Speaking with Baking & Snack magazine, Mr. Arnold discussed the latest regulation being implemented under FSMA and what bakers should keep in mind while browsing the IBIE show floor.

Baking & Snack: How have food safety practices evolved since the last IBIE?

Mr. Arnold: Since 2016, almost all of the key FSMA regulation compliance dates have been reached with the exception of the Intentional Adulteration regulation. Facilities have implemented their food safety plans for approximately two years or more. What we are seeing is facilities going back to basics and shoring up their prerequisite programs. Additionally, they are improving training programs to ensure all personnel are trained and qualified for their specific roles and responsibilities as it relates to the food safety plan.

What issues should be top of mind for bakeries in 2019?

Earl arnold, AibIt appears the Food and Drug Administration is still focusing on allergens and allergen controls. Recalls for undeclared allergens are still occurring frequently. Bakeries can and should review their preventive controls established for allergen hazards.

Most controls I have seen in place are label reviews to ensure allergens are declared on the label and that the right label is on the right product. The other controls usually revolve around changeover cleaning when producing a product that has an allergen, and when finished, changing to produce a product that does not include that allergen. Effective cleaning and/or sanitation may be needed to prevent allergen cross-contact. Reviewing and verifying these controls can assist in ensuring the hazard is truly controlled.

When it comes to Intentional Adulteration, what should operations keep in mind when navigating this rule?

The Intentional Adulteration Regulation 21 CFR 121 compliance date is fast approaching. For large companies it is July 26, 2019. The requirements of this program are similar to the requirements of the food safety plan. That is, a qualified individual must conduct a vulnerability assessment for all products and all processing steps, and if significant hazards are identified, mitigation strategies are required. We must implement food defense monitoring, food defense corrective actions and food defense verification activities for those mitigation strategies and ensure all personnel are qualified for their assigned roles in the food defense plan.

What benchmarks can bakers use to ensure their operation is on a path to success?

The best benchmark is inspections and audits. A good physical inspection or good manufacturing practices (GMP) inspection conducted by qualified internal staff can verify that the programs and food safety plan is working. In addition, it can assist in finding potential gaps and allow a facility to implement corrective actions to get back on track. Results of third-party audits can also provide good benchmarks for where a facility is currently at, but ensure it is understood what that third party and audit/inspection scheme consists of. Some audits do not always look for or capture F.D.A. regulatory requirements. Understanding what a third part audit captures is important if used. 

What equipment features should bakers keep in mind while browsing the show floor at this year’s IBIE?

They should consider questions like, “how difficult will this piece of equipment be to clean in between uses?” “Could allergens — if used — be difficult to remove?” Also, operators should consider the materials non-food contact surfaces are made of. Are these easy to clean? As most of us are aware the GMPs require non-food contact surfaces to be cleaned as often as necessary to prevent cross-contamination and allergen cross-contact. Ensuring these surfaces are easy to clean can assist in faster and safer changeover cleanings.

The education session Food Safety Best Practices for Operations, Engineers, and Sanitarians takes place Sept. 7 during IBIE. To register for this event, click here.