AFI Association of Food Industries

AFI Serving the U.S. Food Import Sector

2019 President's Report

Bob Bauer
Association of Food Industries

Two of the key roles played by AFI, in addition to helping its member companies, is to represent and educate the U.S. food import industry. We take that seriously. We make nearly all our meetings, seminars, webinars, etc. open to non-member firms, we cooperate with domestic and foreign associations to present the views of importers and I speak at conferences all over the world, educating potential and existing exporters about U.S. regulations.

The reason is simple. Any negative incident related to imported foods impacts the entire AFI membership and the entire food import industry. It’s in the best interests of AFI members for the association to have a worldwide presence and be passing information along to those outside the association.

Having said that, there’s no substitute for being a member. Looking at the issues addressed by AFI over the past year makes that clear. The association continues to offer an unmatched level of assistance related to the Food Safety Modernization Act and given our makeup and mission, we’re leading the way regarding the Foreign Supplier Verification Program component of FSMA. As you’ll see mentioned in reports by the chairs of the various sections of AFI, we’ve also addressed issues and topics such as Blockchain, Proposition 65, the required updates to the Nutrition Facts Panel labeling – including success in getting an exemption, industry concerns with a Customs and Border Protection testing procedure and fake/incorrect news. It would take too much space to list everything!

So if you’ve attended an AFI meeting, participated in one of our webinars, received second-hand copy of one of our notices, heard me speak at an industry function or if this is your first exposure to AFI this year or ever, you gotten an idea of what we deliver. But there’s more! Even if our webinar, for example, did a great job addressing one issue, you’re missing out on the rest. Did you attend one of AFI’s FSVP courses? Well, that’s the efficiency with which we try to cover everything; we boil down the legalese and government-speak and give you the information you need in a way you can understand it. And the biggest bonus – it’s directed at your sector. It’s not some broad-brush, entire-food-industry approach; it’s about the food import industry and the impact of that issue on you, whether you’re a U.S. importer or foreign supplier shipping to the U.S.

Looking to the Future

What’s the next big (or even not-so-big) thing? The AFI board of directors and staff continually look for and discuss any topics that might impact the food import industry. There’s also a continuous effort to look for ways to help member companies thrive. Sometimes it’s as simple as having a room at ANUGA or SIAL where representatives from AFI-member companies can host meetings or just rest for a bit. Other times it’s something more involved, such as me serving on the task force that developed the FSVP course that has the FDA-approved curriculum and then offering the course on an ongoing basis around the country.

I encourage you to help the board of directors and the AFI staff help you. Have you ever said to yourself, “I wish there was an easier way to do this or there was a group or program that could help us?” Then contact AFI! Many of the best programs/efforts the association have been the result of a suggestion from one or more members. Sometimes it’s something that starts out as a germ of an idea and then grows from there.

At this point, we know the near-future holds ramped-up enforcement of FSVP and FSMA. FDA has been quite candid in saying it would “educate while we regulate” in the early stages of implementation. Two years into FSVP compliance (even longer for many foreign suppliers), that needle is moving away from “early”. FDA is expected to begin stronger enforcement of all FSMA provisions throughout 2019. Producers, if you haven’t taken the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance course regarding the human food rule, I recommend you have at least two employees sign up immediately. (It’s offered in-person around the world, online and in a hybrid format.) Importers, you should have at least two people take the FSPCA’s FSVP course. Producers and importers alike are playing with fire if they don’t take the applicable course or make some other concerted effort to learn about the regulations. It’s the first thing an FDA inspector is going to ask about during an inspection.

Quick Nod to the Past

While we always look to the future, we know that wouldn’t be possible without our past, including our past volunteer leaders. Former AFI Chairman Herb Feuerstein, founder of Rema Foods, died in February 2019. Herb’s leadership and commitment to AFI over the years was of great help to AFI and the entire food import industry.

Association of Food Industries: Serving the U.S. Food Import Trade Since 1906
3301 Route 66, Ste. 205, Bldg. C • Neptune, NJ 07753
(732) 922-3008 • Fax: (732) 922-3590 • •