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Food and Beverage Logistics

AIB Standards: What are they and why are they important?

Lora Cumbie | December 20, 2021

AIB International, formerly the American Institute for Baking, was founded in 1919 to “put science to work for bakers.” Since then, AIB has grown into one of the world’s foremost training and auditing organizations on food safety, setting AIB standards for quality and safety.

In the warehousing and logistics industry, we hear of AIB mostly in the context of warehouse inspections and audits. AIB is not a government agency, so companies invite AIB to evaluate their operation’s compliance with food safety standards.

AIB_Intl_logoAIB does both inspections and audits, which are very different.

An inspection is a thorough physical review of a food manufacturing/processing/distribution facility to assess what is actually happening in a facility at a moment in time. Inspections can reveal poor food safety practices that might not be apparent from paperwork.

An audit is a systemic evaluation of food facility documentation to determine if programs and related activities achieve planned expectations. As an auditor, AIB looks at data over time to identify positive or negative trends. Audits focus on documentation and can lead to formal certification.

What is AIB’s Role in the Certification Process for Food Safety?

The food safety industry is awash with organizations (each with its own acronym) that establish benchmarks, conduct audits and inspections, and award certifications. It can get a little confusing to see exactly where AIB fits. Here’s a quick review.

Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certifications are the industry-recognized benchmark for food safety and quality. Achieving GFSI certification establishes an organization’s credibility and commitment to food safety.

GFSI does not actually award food safety certifications, but rather recognizes a number of certification programs that meet the stiff GFSI benchmarking requirements. 

The two most popular certification programs for food safety are the British Retail Consortium Certification (BRC) and the Safe Quality Food Certification (SQF).

AIB is an auditing body for these two certifications.

Kane Logistics, for instance, uses AIB as an auditor to achieve a BRC certification at select food distribution facilities – a certification that demonstrates adherence to the global GFSI benchmark standards for food safety.

AIB in the Logistics Industry

Food manufacturing and distribution are highly regulated functions, and rightly so. Food contamination during the supply chain journey can have catastrophic consequences for consumers. And the cost to companies can cripple profitability and shareholder confidence.

Conservative estimates put the direct costs of a recall at $10 million per incident. The long-term reputational damage to companies, post recall, can be much steeper.

These same companies impacted by food safety gaffes rely heavily on third-party food warehousing> providers to maintain safe handling and shipping practices while products are in their care. For these manufacturers, having an objective, expert party like AIB confirm that food safety practices are adequate at the logistics facility is an important part of a vetting process for logistics providers.

An AIB Standards Inspection: The Basics

AIB standards for its GMP inspections include the following five categories, which form the basis of inspection steps. Some apply more to the manufacturing environment than distribution.

  • Operational Methods and Personnel Practices – the receipt, storage, monitoring, handling, and processing of raw materials to manufacture and distribute safe final product. Facilities need to be confident that people, processes, and conditions do not introduce a food safety concern.
  • Maintenance for Food Safety – the design, upkeep, and management of equipment, buildings, and grounds to provide a sanitary, efficient, and reliable manufacturing environment. AIB standards here provide best practices for optimizing the design and care of the facility and equipment so that they are easy to manage and do not create sanitation issues.
  • Cleaning Practices – the cleaning and sanitizing of equipment, utensils, and buildings to provide a wholesome and safe processing environment. The AIB inspection will look at the methods of cleaning, the types of chemicals used, the frequency of cleaning activities, and the control of microbes.
  • Integrated Pest Management – the assessment, monitoring, and management of pest activity to identify, prevent, and eliminate conditions that could promote or sustain a pest population. The inspection considers both removal of any pests and measures to prevent pests from ever having the opportunity to thrive in a food environment.
  • Adequacy of Prerequisite and Food Safety Programs – this standard is largely about documentation. AIB wants to ensure that all departments are working together to deliver a safe product. It is not enough to have programs in place, the programs must be formalized through designing, planning, management, documentation, and review.

Shippers should ask potential 3PL partners for the results of recent AIB inspections, which assign a score based on the extent of improvements needed. The very best providers won’t be below 180 on a 200-point scale for any of the five categories. 

The Benefits and the Limitations of an AIB Inspection

Adhering to AIB standards through an inspection process helps identify issues and root causes, eliminate food hazards, prevent recalls, and maintain a healthy, sanitary environment for food handling.

But many 3PLs, including KANE, have moved beyond just the AIB inspection process to include full GFSI-recognized certification. Companies began to recognize the limitations of inspection-only programs when food safety issues cropped up at facilities that had received a great AIB inspection score a few months earlier.

Inspections that assess facilities against Good Manufacturing Processes (GMPs) focus on facility practices, like hygiene. But certifications like the BRC and the SQF go far beyond the standards outlined above to look at an organization’s entire internal process. They include the importance of keeping a clean facility, but ultimately offer a more comprehensive, holistic approach to maintaining the processes and culture required for food safety.

KANE and AIB

As a major food logistics provider to both manufacturers and retailers, KANE has worked with AIB for over 30 years. The relationship has evolved from yearly inspections at select food distribution centers to a more strategic relationship today where AIB is the official auditor for our certification to the BRC Global Food Safety Standard.

This standard has set the benchmark for food safety over 20 years. It provides a framework to manage product safety, integrity, legality and quality, and the operational controls for these criteria across the food industry, including distribution.

When looking for a 3PL for food warehousing services, look for providers who have gone beyond simple safety and sanitation inspections and have achieved demanding GFSI-recognized certifications on food safety and quality.

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