FDA officials approached the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) almost a year ago for a recommendation of a high-standard frozen dessert facility to visit. They wanted to observe how a company is “consistently ensuring food safety, quality and allergen protection during the production process.”
Revamping the Frozen Dessert Processing Guidelines of 1989 was the main focus of this visit and to “make certain that any new recommendations align with good manufacturing practices and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).”
Wells Enterprises, which makes Blue Bunny ice cream, is one of the largest family-owned ice cream plants in the country and an active member of IDFA. John Allan, one of IDFA’s food safety experts, as well as vice president of regulatory affairs and international standards, knew Wells Enterprises was right for the tour.
“The FDA came to us knowing that we represent the ice cream industry and have those connections. I knew [Wells] would have a good range of equipment, from older equipment to much more modern production practices and production lines,” Allan told DairyReporter.
Allan took part in the tours with a six-person team from FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and revealed the FDA staff asked a lot of questions about the equipment, sanitation practices, maintenance programs and ingredient programs, basically “the A to Zs of making ice cream and frozen desserts.”
He predicts the guidelines update will be tailored to small and mid-sized ice cream producers that “may not have large food safety teams of microbiologists and chemists and engineers,” unlike most of the big players.
“I think it will be directed more toward the smaller producers that have less staff and resources, who would really be looking for a guidance like this to help them understand how to apply FSMA and comply with regulations within their context of being an ice cream maker,” Allan said.
Wells Enterprises employs more than 2,800 people in LeMars, Iowa, and produces more than 150m gallons of ice cream per year for all 50 states.