Like most companies, AIB International believes in and practices continuous improvement. This year, 2016, will mark the third year in our transformative journey. The investments we have been making over the last two years in multiple areas are beginning to favorably impact the food and beverage industry.

Innovative new products and services are coming to the market in response to the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As is being seen as the final rules unfold, they are very complex. There will be multiple educational seminars and training opportunities in 2016.

We have already commercialized the kill-step validation procedures and calculators in support of FSMA regulations for three bakery product categories—hamburger buns, whole wheat bread, and muffins. (See Building Effective Food Safety Systems, page 21.) These provide the industry with some pragmatic tools for satisfying the FSMA requirement.

Several more product profiles are to be completed and published in 2016, including those for cookies and tortillas. Remember, this kill-step validation component has implications for any company importing commercial baked goods into the U.S. and its territories.

We will be updating our Consolidated Standards for Inspection in 2016. Because these standards are globally applicable, we have decided to build separate modules for FSMA-specific implications. Food businesses will be able to determine if they need to include a FSMA module based on their food safety needs.

This enables a multinational company to have a consistent global foundation based on proven prerequisites and good manufacturing practices, while not overburdening its regional operations where FSMA may not be relevant.

FSMA now mandates food-safety training for three levels of qualified individuals in an organization:

  • frontline employees,
  • supervisory employees, and
  • food safety professionals.

In 2016, we will be designing a food-safety competency model that incorporates not only FSMA elements, but also higher level skills and competencies the industry is requesting for a food safety professional.

The training programs will be modularized, include assessment tools, and be delivered in a blended e-learning and instructor-led format. Our learning management system (LMS), Learning Labs@AIB, enables companies to create, access, track, and manage e-learning specific programs for their employees. Additionally, LMS microsites can be customized to make programs look and feel like a company’s own designed curriculum.

As the commercial food and beverage supply chain becomes more globalized, the need for in-plant education, training, inspections, and audits is also expanding for food facilities. We plan to add food safety professionals in nearly all regions, especially internationally. This continual growth makes it even more important that we have rigorous calibration programs to mitigate person-to-person variability.

We also are exploring several partnerships with certification bodies around the world to leverage each other’s strengths and capabilities and meet a wider variety of needs, especially related to scheme-specific, language, culture, or travel challenges. One such certification capability to be added is FSSC 22000-Q, enabling those using the FSSC scheme to tie the food safety and quality modules into one certification activity each year.

Expansion also means getting closer with companies around the world. The needs and requirements are different even within the same multi-national company. By having more frequent conversations with, listening to, and asking questions of these companies, we can help them share best food safety practices quickly.

The insights we will learn from food companies, industry experts, and global trends will feed into our innovation pipeline for new products and services in 2017, and enable targeting of industry segment needs.

We are excited about the future and look forward to helping companies, large and small, elevate their food safety capabilities. It’s all about building layers of protection into the food and beverage supply chain. Safe and affordable commercial food is becoming a standard expectation by consumers around the world.

Andre Biane is the President & CEO of AIB International.