American Baker’s Association’s FTRAC meeting took place on June 7 and 8, at the Covington & Burling Offices in Washington, DC. Over 50 representatives of the ABA’s baking and allied members were in attendance to participate in dialogue and listen to a variety of speakers and key presentations on top ABA issues. Speakers including Dr. Corrie Whisner of Arizona State University, Christine Cochran of the Grain Foods Foundation, Johanne Trudeau of the Baking Association of Canada, and lastly Darcy Pawlik and Ryan Findley of Syngenta.
This meeting gave members an opportunity for an eye-opening dialogue on the health benefit of grains for the human microbiome – debunking gluten-free myths. Other key takeaways included a legal analysis on the bottom line impact of the new nutrition facts label and lastly, bakers learned how ABA-AIBI’s Kill Step calculator will save them millions. More details on what attendees gained from attending this valuable conference are below.
After an opening roundtable to discuss key issues of concern to the committee, Dr. Corrie Whisner of Arizona State University spoke about the microbiome and how it affects grains and baking industry product opportunities. Her position was purely scientific, bringing biological facts about how certain foods affect the body. Some of these issues included studies about how whole grains improve health, grains improve bone health, and the popular topic of gluten-free products impacting health. She used biological facts to prove that unless an individual has celiac disease, there is no positive impact on an individual’s health by eating gluten-free products, in contrast to many marketing campaigns of misinformation.
The second speaker was Christine Cochran, Executive Director of the Grain Foods Foundation (GFF), who spoke about how the industry can improve on public relations, messaging and how GFF is already making strides to further improve public relations in the baking industry. Cochran made a point of starting a dialogue with the public health community and presenting some of the GFF’s new consumer research.
Next, a panel discussed nutrition policy and food labeling issues, led by ABA’s Lee Sanders and Mike Goscinski, as well as Miriam Guggenheim, ABA’s FDA counsel and partner with Covington & Burling. The panel updated the members on ABA’s leadership of FBIA and FDA meetings citing the recent quarterly meeting to review the nutrition facts panel compliance period, review of the term “healthy” and funding for FSMA activities. FDA is also now requiring added sugar labeling measured in grams and listing of percent Daily Value for added sugars in all FDA regulated food products. The nutrition facts label has also updated the serving sizes to more accurately reflects how much an individual consumes in a single eating period. FDA has also launched an initiative to reduce the country’s sodium intake. FDA plans to reduce the intake to 3,00 mg/day in two years, and 2,300 mg/day in ten years.
Johanne Trudeau of the Baking Association of Canada spoke next, beginning her presentation by stating that FDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) signed an agreement recognizing each other’s food safety systems as comparable to each other. Trudeau then discussed nutrition labeling in Canada and ingredient proposals that have been made. One important topic was GMO labeling, that Trudeau stated was on hold while Canada monitored the U.S. stance on the issue. Trudeau also mentioned the voluntary initiatives that have been taken to eliminate trans-fat, with only about 3% trans-fat in Canadian foods. Trudeau ended her presentation by discussing the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC), a council started to regulate transparency and coordination between Canada and the US and to align regulatory systems.
The first day of FTRAC concluded with Darcy Pawlik and Ryan Findlay of Syngenta discussing their new hybrid wheat technology. Pawlik pitched Syngenta’s hybrid wheat as bringing a new level of yield and consistency, as well as showing studies where hybrid wheat performing better under more adverse weather conditions. Findlay then took the time to discuss the National Association of Wheat Growers’ Action Plan. Findlay called for increased grower investment in and use of modern wheat production practices.
Day two of FTRAC opened with a review of the Vermont GE labeling requirements provided by Miriam Guggenheim, partner with Covington & Burling. Vermont’s GE Labeling Law compliance period begins July 1, 2016 with a transition grace period through Jan 1, 2017.
Terri Moore from The Center For Food Integrity (CFI) was the first presentation of the day. Her key topic of discussion was focused on the bias against conventional and commercial agriculture. CFI has created a website (www.bestfoodfacts.org) that proves that many marketing campaigns have targeted the organic food movement, but science demonstrates that organic food has no additional health benefits compared to non-organic food. She discussed that the only way to improve the public’s perception of non-organic food was to focus on trust through transparency.
AIB International has partnered with ABA and industry stakeholders and Kansas State University and the University of Georgia to develop kill-step validation (KSV) procedures for various bakery products. Some of the main objectives of this project are to develop KSV procedures for baker products, develop Baking Process Kill-Step Calculators, and to provide on-site support and training for the US baking industry to comply with the FDA-FSMA’s (117.160) validation and verification requirement. AIBI strongly believes that the baking process kill-step calculator’s will enable bakers of all sizes to meet requirements of the FDA FSMA without having to individually invest in costly and time-consuming microbial challenge studies.
The last presentation of the day came from ABA’s Rasma Zvaners, ABA’s Policy Director. Zvaners provided a timeline for FDA FSMA and Nutrition Rules to demonstrate the broad regulatory initiatives that FDA has pushed forward. Lee Sanders also reported that the FDA Reportable Food Registry’s Year Five trends and noted that FDA this year recognized ABA for its efforts in educating bakers about the importance of allergen labeling and use of good cGMPs to control cross contact. The last topic of discussion was FDA’s final rule establishing sanitary food transportation requirements. This rule applies to food transported by motor vehicle or rail vehicle (but not by barge or air). All vehicles and equipment must be designed, adequately cleanable and maintained for their intended use. All covered entities must retain certain records and make them available to FDA upon request. Most entities must come into compliance by April 6, 2017; small businesses must come into compliance by April 6, 2018.
The next FTRAC meeting dates will be November 9th – 10th, 2016 in Washington, DC; February 20th – 21st, 2017 in Kansas City, MO, and June 20th, 21st, and 22nd in Denver, Colorado. If you are interesting in being added to the FTRAC list to receive information and meeting announcements, please contact Lee Sanders, ABA Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 202-789-0300.