60 Second Interview: Albert Schipper, President AIBI

Acrylamide, labelling regs and skills gap: AIBI steps up its game

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Albert Schipper, new AIBI President
Albert Schipper, new AIBI President

Related tags: European union, Shelf life

Albert Schipper, chair of Dutch bakeries association NVB, was recently elected president of the International Association of Plant Bakers (AIBI). We caught up with him to hear about his vision for the sector.

The bakery industry has reacted positively to it being excluded under the new EU Food Information Regulation (FIR) in relation to the ‘defrosted’ labelling requirement. What role did AIBI play in ensuring this exemption for bakery products?

The proposal of the Council to include the labelling obligation “defrosted” came in at a relative late stage in the co-decision procedure. AIBI Secretariat informed Members of the European Parliament ENVI Committee of the special situation in terms of industrial bakers regarding the obligation defrosted.

The final wording was worked out in the trilogue meetings and then finally adopted in the text of the Food Information Regulation. We are very pleased with this outcome as our members are not obliged to label “defrosted”, because freezing is part of the technological process.

What are the main goals of the newly established AIBI Technical and Regulatory Committee, and how will it ensure the bakery industry is heard at regulatory level?

The experts of the newly launched AIBI Technical Committee in May 2011 are dealing with all crucial EU regulatory issues affecting plant bakeries by mandate of the AIBI Board of Directors.

Current key issues are the implementing and follow up of the new regulation on food information to consumers, the review of the hygiene package, the follow-up of certain health claims, food additives and enzymes. Acrylamide will be on the agenda for 2011/2012.

The AIBI Board of Directors is currently reflecting on a mandate concerning the discussion on nutrient profiles. The committee will prepare draft position papers to be approved by the Board of Directors. We have committed 15 bakery experts from all over Europe.

What are the challenges for European bread and bakery manufacturers in relation to volatility in wheat, sugar fuel, packaging, and other raw materials, and what is the AIBI doing to help the sector in that regard?

The price volatility of raw materials is a major concern for AIBI member companies. Here AIBI cannot intervene directly, but it can help to improve market transparency.

The activity of AIBI and FoodDrinkEurope (former CIAA) in the EU High Level Forum on better functioning of the food chain is also contributing to market transparency.

How is AIBI hoping to achieve a reduction in food waste in the sector over the coming 12 months – is it looking at labelling information for consumers in regard to this?

The increasing part of food waste in general is a really important issue to tackle. As far as bread is concerned, our national associations and national consumer organisations will play an important role in preventing food being thrown away.

The labelling of “use by date” and “best before” should be fully understood by consumers. We believe that consumer education can play a crucial role to reduce the food waste.

Via our membership we are able to raise awareness and to reduce the part of our production that goes into animal feed. Nevertheless, assuring a high level of food hygiene and food safety for consumers must remain our prime objective.

Also, what are AIBI’s ambitions in relation to cutting the sector’s carbon footprint?

AIBI is member of FoodDrinkEurope, which is co-chairing the European SCP Round Table. The SCP is currently developing the framework methodology for the environmental impact assessment for the entire food chain.

We expect to see the preliminary report before the end of the year. We will then examine which specific key actions we could undertake in the bakery sector.

In relation to careers and the skills gap in Europe, what is AIBI doing in relation to making the bakery sector more attractive to graduates, particularly engineers?

To seek and encourage young talent and to show that the bakery sector is a modern and interesting work place to be will become another important topic for AIBI.

Although this area of activity is relatively new to AIBI, it is nevertheless the right time to bring this action to the European level, coordinating efforts already undertaken by national member associations.

It simply makes sense to work on general guidance and exchange programmes as well as on bakery promotion programmes for the benefit of bakeries. To cooperate with schools and universities and the promotion of best practice exchange programs for workers is a key objective. Here we see great value of cooperation with the craft and artisanal bakers, as well as on national and European level.

The bakery sector will continue to be competitive in the future, offering interesting and challenging jobs.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

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