As 2018 nears, retailers and instore deli and bakery suppliers will keep a close eye on Washington, D.C., and other seats of governmental power, where existing and pending food safety and health-related legislation could significantly impact their industries.
Menu calorie labeling is top of mind for the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association heading into next year, says Eric Richard, the group’s education coordinator. The issue has been on the front burner for a while, he says, but that hasn’t diminished the importance of educating IDDBA members about it. “It’s been a focus the past several years, and there is still a lot of interest among members,” he says. “It will affect instore bakeries and delis, and we’re trying to provide as much information as we can.”
There’s still much for retailers to learn, Richard says. Unfortunately, many of the answers to their questions aren’t clear — to anyone along the supply chain. Under the new law, items sold in instore delis and bakeries will need to have their calorie counts displayed clearly on a sign or a label. That applies even to made-to-order sandwiches, salad bars and other complex instore options, Richard says.
“It’s tricky to identify all the calories when you put together a variety of ingredients on a salad bar, an olive bar, in a sandwich,” he says.
At its past two annual shows, IDDBA has integrated menu labeling into its education packages. Also in the past two years, the association has held live webinars with Food and Drug Administration officials on the topic. “We have a good relationship now with the labeling team at FDA, which has been very beneficial,” Richard says. “We get the sense that they really want to help educate our members.”
There have been rumblings that implementation of the law could be delayed again as the food industry continues to struggle to find ways to comply efficiently and cost-effectively, but as of now, Richard says, IDDBA is encouraging members to act as though the May 2018 deadline is real.
Elaine Meloan, food labeling manager for Manhattan, Kansas-based AIB International, says that for those food products sold in instore bakeries that require nutrition information to be displayed, the effects of the new law will be significant.
“It will be similar to the impact on industrial bakers,” she says. “All food labels with nutrition information will need to be updated.” Bakers will need to gather nutrition information on their ingredients to produce an updated profile in line with the new regulations, Meloan says. And since the FDA has yet to issue significant guidance documents regarding dietary fiber or added sugars, some ingredient suppliers haven’t been able to issue revised nutrition information for their ingredients.
“Manufacturers may find it difficult to acquire all the information needed to update their nutrition profiles in a timely manner,” Meloan says.
Adapting to FSMA
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011, applies to United States Food and Drug Administration-registered facilities and not directly to grocery stores and c-stores. But as Stephanie Lopez, vice president of Food Safety Services Americas for AIB International, points out, commercial manufacturers who supply to instore bakeries must comply with FSMA.
“There are several key rules manufacturers must comply with, depending on the size of their business,” Lopez says. Most, she says, must comply with at least three:
- Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule. This rule requires each facility to have a food safety plan, good manufacturing practices (GMP’s) like allergen control, a recall plan and supply chain control;
- Sanitary Transport Rule. This requires shippers, carriers and receivers to work together to maintain food safety for products requiring temperature control; and
- Foreign Supplier Verification. Under this rule, importers are responsible for ensuring that all of their foreign suppliers are FSMA-compliant.
AIB International helps manufacturers get up to speed, Lopez says, by performing GAP assessments, performing simulated FDA preventive controls investigations and visiting foreign suppliers to gauge their FSMA readiness.
Looking ahead, Lopez said, there is one key FSMA rule that won’t take effect until 2020. The Mitigation Strategies to Protect Against Intentional Adulteration rule addresses food defense and food fraud concerns. “While the final rule has been published, additional guidance is anticipated and will help manufacturers better understand the expectations of the FDA,” Lopez says. “In the meantime, engaged facilities are keeping their food defense and food fraud prevention programs current through training and audits.”
IDDBA has had an FSMA resource page on its website for two years, Richard says, but most members are looking for information on how the law works, not necessarily how to comply with it. Those contacting the association, he says, aren’t typically food safety or quality assurance specialists seeking technical advice. That’s because many IDDBA members won’t be directly impacted by FSMA. But those operators who are heavily involved in import/export — as many in the specialty food world are, Richard points out — or logistics and other related industries will have to get up to speed.
With that in mind, IDDBA hosted its first-ever live webinar on FSMA in January. “The QA and food safety world will certainly be working closely with instore,” Richard says. “It’s such a big change from the way things were, and there are a lot of details when you’re putting together compliance and operations processes that have been years in the making.”
Other front-burner issues loom
Nutrition facts labeling and FSMA aren’t the only pieces of existing or pending legislation on the minds of retailers and their instore bakery and deli suppliers, says Rasma Zvaners, vice president of regulatory and technical services for the Washington, D.C.-based American Bakers Association. She cites two other items that have been identified by members of the ABA’s Food Technical Regulatory Affairs committee:
- The FDA Food Code. The code is a model that assists food control jurisdictions at all levels of government by providing them with a scientifically sound technical and legal basis for regulating both retail and foodservice channels. Many individual states, however, are considering adopting their own food codes, which might not follow the latest FDA version.
- California’s Proposition 65, the 1986 Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. While Prop 65 isn’t new, lately it’s been “top of mind for many in the food industry,” including bakers and retailers, Zvaners says. That’s because in recent years more public interest groups have sought legal action against food companies because of consumer exposure to chemicals. In 2017, for instance, there has been an increase in the number of notices with intent to sue filed over acrylamide levels in cookies, crackers and bread.
Through the work of the committee, Zvaners says, the ABA helps members address concerns dealing with both food safety regulations and nutrition issues. “The committee meets three times a year and has a robust agenda addressing today’s industry challenges.”
One issue that won’t likely need much if any attention, Zvaners says, is possible effects on the baking industry from the Trump Administration’s promises to roll back some regulations on businesses in various fields. “It is not anticipated that the Trump Administration will ease the food safety regulations that recently went into effect for the baking industry,” she says. “However, FDA is currently seeking public input to streamline outdated regulatory burdens.”