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Ensuring Regulatory Compliance for Flavor Companies

By: Patty Benson, SAFC
Posted: January 9, 2009, from the January 2009 issue of P&F magazine.

Regulatory compliance in the flavors industry has become increasingly complex as flavor manufacturers deal with often-conflicting worldwide requirements. Here I will share what I—and of course my company—have learned from a recent evaluation of the regulatory compliance position of the flavor and fragrance product line in the service of the industry’s evolving needs.

A Case for Change

In today’s market, the increased emphasis and customer demand for food regulatory compliance provides an opportunity for companies to make a solid commitment to operate in accordance with all applicable global regulations. This begins with the identification of compounds most widely used in the food and flavoring industries and ensuring that these materials meet the strict regulatory compliance requirements of the world’s fast-growing food industry.

As with all large projects, success can be only be ensured by involving major stakeholders to define program requirements and design solutions. In our case, a company-wide cross-functional team was chartered, including representatives from the marketing, operations, quality control, quality assurance, distribution, purchasing and executive management groups.

Identifying Improvement Opportunities

First, we identified the compliance requirements required by the food industry. Worldwide regulations were compiled and reviewed to distinguish those applicable to the manufacture and distribution of flavors. The American Institute of Baking’s (AIB) Consolidated Standards for Food Safety and AIB’s Consolidated Standards for Food Distribution Centers were identified as reliable resource documents.1 These documents are derived from several worldwide standards and provided a solid foundation by which to evaluate food safety risk and thus, build a food safety program. To ensure that industry best practices and programs were implemented and maintained, our organization engaged AIB’s third-party GMP audit services, which offer comprehensive evaluation of the adequacy of food safety programs, management systems, pest control programs, operational methods and personnel practices, in addition to maintenance for food safety, and cleaning practices.2

AIB’s training audits assess current programs and identify opportunities for improvement. Preparation for such an audit includes a review of applicable regulations, a review of the AIB training audit report, benchmarking oneself against other food companies, and facility walkthroughs with engineering personnel. In our case, the compilation and evaluation process identified opportunities under four main categories: facility improvements, policy upgrades, vendor qualification improvement and personnel practices.

Facility Upgrades

Our process made it clear that facility upgrades were required in order for our Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Steinheim, Germany, sites to meet food standards and customer expectations. Representatives from operations departments at both locations were tapped to lead the redesign and upgrade projects. Working with the engineering group and qualified outside contractors specializing in these types of projects, the operations team identified areas for improvement and developed an implementation plan and timeline for project completion.