5th Annual Food Regulatory & Quality Assurance Summit

Enabling opportunities for businesses to expand their knowledge to develop strategies and standards to be more compliant in an ever-changing environment from a regulatory and quality assurance standpoint is one of the keys for maintaining business competitiveness in today’s marketplace. With that thought in mind, WFIM is pleased to be partnering once again with the Strategy Institute who will be hosting its 5th Annual Food Regulatory & Quality Assurance Summit in Toronto on October 21st and 22nd, 2014.

This special Event for those in the Food and Beverage Sector is designed to help Regulatory, Quality Assurance and Food Safety practitioners in manufacturing, processing and the retail sector prepare for Canada’s new regulatory requirements. It provides an excellent forum to gain peer insights through best practice sharing and industry perspectives from experts focused on Canadian Food Regulations.

Timely and relevant topics such as: Regulatory Modernization, Health and Wellness Claims, Recall Management, GMO Labelling, Sodium Reduction Trends, Traceability, Risk Mitigation, GFSI Certification, Quality Assurance and a Retailers Roundtable with an excellent line-up of speakers from the US Food & Drug Administration, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Clif Bar & Company, Mars Incorporated, Walmart Canada Corp., Target Canada, Monsanto Canada Inc., VegPro International, John Morrell Food Group, Plats Du Chef, Olymel and Sensient Flavors Canada – promise to make this a wonderful learning opportunity!

To view a complete Agenda for this special Summit including venue information and registration details, please visit:  http://www.foodregulationcanada.com.

When:                  October 21st and 22nd, 2014
Where:                 Marriott Toronto Airport, Toronto

As a special media sponsor, WFIM is very pleased to be able to extend a special 20% discount to its Members – please use VIP Discount Code WFIM20 when registering!

Without a doubt, this Event presents participants with a wonderful opportunity to network with industry leaders, to share experiences and challenges with peers, and stay up to date with important industry developments that may affect your organization.

For more information on the 5th Annual Food Regulatory and Quality Assurance Summit, please feel free to contact the Strategy Institute at 1-866-298-9343 ext 200 (registrations@strategyinstitute.com) or Bren at 519-396-6521 (bdeleeuw@emccanada.org).

On behalf of the Strategy Institute and WFIM, we sincerely hope that you are able to participate in this very special Summit!

Beware of Gluten-Free Claims

“Gluten free” has spread like wildfire. In hot pursuit of sales, brand owners are jumping on the bandwagon and gluten-free products appear to have taken over the grocery aisles.

Through participation in Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) conferences, I have learned a great deal about the gluten problem and, as a result, am concerned about the reliability of gluten-free claims.

In conversations with food processors and brand owners who make gluten-free claims, it is clear that many do not understand the risks behind manufacturing gluten-free products in compliance with Health Canada regulations.They do not know, what they do not know. And that puts their brand and customers at risk.

The Regulations

In Canada, gluten-free foods are classified as “Foods for Special Dietary Use”. Section B.24.018. of the Food and Drug Regulations states: “It is prohibited to label, package, sell or advertise a food in a manner likely to create an impression that it is a gluten-free food if the food contains any gluten protein or modified gluten protein, including any gluten protein fraction, referred to in the definition “gluten”… ”

They go on to define “gluten” as:

“(a) any gluten protein from the grain of any of the following cereals or the grain of a hybridized strain created from at least one of the following cereals: barley,
triticale, or
wheat, kamut or spelt; or

(b) any modified gluten protein, including any gluten protein fraction, that is derived from the grain of any of the cereals referred to in subparagraphs [above] or the grain of a hybridized strain referred to in paragraph (a).”

Note that oats are included in the definition. I still see brands at trade shows advertising products with oats as “gluten free”. Even when made with “pure uncontaminated oats”, Canada does not permit a gluten-free claim.

Unfortunately, Health Canada’s rules do not specify the threshold for gluten. For that, we must look to the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) who is responsible for enforcement. When making a gluten-free claim on a product, its gluten content must be LESS THAN 20 ppm (parts per million). To help you visualize how minute this is, consider the following example: a typical flat screen TV has 2 million pixels; 20 ppm is equivalent to only 40 pixels. That’s a scary thought for anyone with celiac disease.

The Watch-Out

Contrary to popular belief, just because a food does not inherently contain gluten, like rice for example, does not mean it is gluten free.

The Culprits

#1. Cross-contamination can come from anywhere in the supply chain, from the field to the fork.

Major risk areas include raw ingredients, manufacturing facilities, packaging, transportation and storage. Take a look at our grain handling system. Wheat and other grains are stored in the same elevators and transported in the same trucks, unless they are handled by grain companies certified under the Canadian Identity Preserved Recognition System (CIPRS).

#2. Common ingredients used in food processing, such as additives, seasonings and sauces, can be hidden sources of gluten. Even packaging materials and adhesives may contain gluten.

What are the risks?

  • Subjecting your customers to illness.
  • Your product could be the cause of a costly recall that will spread through the supply chain. CFIA tests products labelled as “gluten free”. Those with 20 or more ppm of gluten could be recalled. That means paying the costs of withdrawing the product from the market, designing and printing new labels, re-labelling, re-distribution, reimbursing retailers, paying penalties and losing sales in the meantime. Is it worth the risk?
  • Negative publicity that will damage the brand’s reputation, erode customer trust and ultimately result in lost sales.

How can “less than 20 ppm” be detected?

There are a number of scientific tests to detect the presence of gluten. But, according to medical doctors speaking at the CCA conference, these tests are not 100% reliable. 

How do consumers know whom to trust?

There is a plethora of “gluten-free” symbols in the market. Many are self-declarations; in other words, the brand owner created the “certification mark”. Some “gluten-free certifications” are based entirely on end product testing. However, that’s not good enough. CFIA states “manufacturers and importers should have good manufacturing/importing practices (GMP/GIP) in place to achieve the lowest levels of gluten possible to avoid cross-contamination.”

The Solution

Making a gluten-free claim can be a minefield in the absence of preventive control measures. The solution is a HACCP-based gluten-free management system for food processing facilities. That’s the principle behind the Canadian Celiac Association’s, Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP),which is based on Canadian regulations. To ensure compliance with GFCP requirements, annual audits from independent third party auditors are required.

Building Trust in Your Brand

The Gluten-Free Certification Program is an investment that goes beyond protecting your brand. Products prominently displaying the GFCP mark stand out on shelf, are differentiated from competitors and build trust in your brand.


Check out these links to learn more about Canadian regulations and the Gluten-Free Certification Program.



Posted by Birgit Blain, president of Birgit Blain & Associates Inc.; food business specialists, helping brand owners break down barriers and position their brands for growth. Her experience includes 17 years in the grocery trade with Loblaw Companies and President’s Choice®. Her extensive knowledge base spans product management, account management and food retailing. Learn more at www.BBandAssoc.com

How Traceability can Increase Profitability

Photo-Bar CodeHighly publicized food borne illness outbreaks and recalls have weakened consumer trust in the safety of our food system. This has given rise to Canadian and U.S. government initiatives focusing on food safety and traceability.

Food processors and brand owners undoubtedly view this as unnecessary added cost and red tape, further impacting their efficiency and ability to compete.

How can food processors turn this into a positive, value-added proposition?

Judith Kirkness, author of The Traceability Factor, a comprehensive guide for food processors, shared her insights at the 10th Annual North American Food Safety Summit.

For traceability purposes, food processors must collect and track information related to:

  • Receiving and storage of raw materials
  • Manufacturing and storing interim and finished goods
  • Shipping finished goods

The data sits in individual silos. Connecting those silos of information enables food processors to identify and correct inefficiencies. That’s what traceability technology can do for you.


By automating the traceability process businesses can:

1.  Respond quickly to recalls. Bad news spreads like wildfire through social media. In the event of a recall, traceability information is at your fingertips, saving precious time and reducing stress.

2.  Calculate accurate costing for raw ingredients, batches, work in progress and finished goods. Knowing the true product cost is critical for improving profitability.

3.  Monitor yield by comparing inputs and outputs to reduce waste.

4.  Reduce errors and manual data entry.

5.  Improve inventory management.

6.  Report profitability by product and customer, also factoring in marketing program costs.


Admittedly, it’s a big investment, but it can pay for itself through:

  • increased manufacturing efficiency
  • labour productivity enhancement
  • reduced waste
  • improved product quality
  • reduced risks
An added bonus is the protection of your brand and building customer trust.

There are a variety of hardware and software solutions on the market, each with their own capabilities and features. The technology package is customized for the food processor’s unique requirements. Ask service providers for a free assessment, to compare apples to oranges and find the right solution for your business.


Government funding programs like Growing Forward 2 from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) can dramatically offset the technology cost. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/growingforward/gf2-processor.htm


Where to start? These publications will help you to get informed and learn what questions to ask.

The Traceability Factor http://www.thetraceabilityfactor.com

Traceability for Dummies (free download) http://www.carlisletechnology.com/traceability

Traceability is not only a legal obligation for food processors and brand owners, it’s an investment that will strengthen your business and your brand.


P.S.  Judith Kirkness is offering Canadian food processors a complimentary copy of her book The Traceability Factor. It’s an excellent resource and must-read for any food business. Call Minotaur Software 905-458-7575 or 1-800-668-1284. Ask for Judith and mention Birgit Blain’s blog. There is absolutely no obligation. Offer is available while supplies last.


Posted by Birgit Blain, president of Birgit Blain & Associates Inc.; food business specialists, helping brand owners break down barriers and position their brands for growth. Her experience includes 17 years in the grocery trade with Loblaw Companies and President’s Choice®. Her extensive knowledge base spans product management, account management and food retailing. www.BBandAssoc.com




Financing a business is a challenge for any company, but especially for small food businesses. The pressure is on to comply with North America’s new food safety regulations, expected to take effect in 2015. Health Canada is implementing the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and the FDA in the U.S. is drafting the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Canadian food businesses exporting to the U.S. will have to comply with both.

How can a small Canadian business afford the cost of implementing the required food safety measures? Read on.

Is it worth it? It’s all in the way you look at it. Yes, food safety is a cost of doing business but, it’s also a trust-builder. In this age of social media, consumer expectations of transparency and authenticity and growing concern for the safety of their food, can there be a stronger message than “our brand invests in food safety”?


At this month’s North American Food Safety Summit in Toronto, Randy Josephs, VP of Operations at Kisko Products, described how his family’s business overcame challenges to grow into a medium-size business. They were able to implement technology within a budget, keep up with regulations, provide ongoing employee training and find funding through Canadian government programs.


Government programs will not fully fund your business. Additional capital is required. For Kisko, the benefits outweighed the costs. Over a 5 year period improvements included:

  • Direct labour
  • Machine usage, changeover, throughput and capacity
  • Decreased production waste and garbage cost
  • Market development
  • Export expansion capabilities


Canadian government funding programs are typically focused on innovation, market growth and export development. Each program has its own eligibility requirements and window of availability, and may not be an option for your business. Randy shared some programs that helped grow his business. There are also other programs and grants available, including tax incentives like SR&ED.

  • Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME)
  • Yves Landry AIME Global Initiative
  • Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP)
  • Growing Forward 2
  • Local Food Fund

But, who has the time for research and filling out applications? Where do you start? Mentor Works helped Kisko navigate through the government maze, identifying and successfully applying for the appropriate funding opportunities. According to Randy, Mentor Works builds their business on referrals. What sets them apart is that they provide the necessary knowledge and tools to enable their clients to submit future successful applications on their own. I asked Randy if he’s related to anyone in the company. He assured me he’s just a happy customer. To learn more, Mentor Works provides webinars and workshops.

So don’t despair. Check out what the Canadian government has to offer.

Posted by Birgit Blain, President of Birgit Blain & Associates Inc., packaged food specialists providing pain relief for food brands.www.BBandAssoc.com

Cronut Burger Lessons

Photo-cronut burgerToronto’s August 2013 food-borne illness outbreak attributed to the “Cronut Burger” is now a distant memory for most of us. But perhaps not, for those unlucky souls who were sick and hospitalized. One consolation is that more people weren’t affected and no one died.

This event is a learning opportunity for packaged food brands and food service businesses, at someone else’s expense.


As we have seen from recalls and other food-borne illness outbreaks (2011 Jensen Farms cantaloupes, 2012 XL Foods, and so on), consequences include financial penalties, bankruptcy, legal action, criminal charges and economic impact that can spread far beyond the company at the source, with a ripple effect through an entire industry.

The more I learn about food safety, the more I realize how much more there is to learn. That’s why I attended the 10th Annual North American Summit on Food Safety. Here are some key learnings from a presentation about the “Cronut Burger” investigation by Toronto Public Health Inspector Jim Chan, (now retired) who had a major role in managing the outbreak.

  1. Food safety is everyone’s responsibility, from upper management to the most junior employees. Developing a culture of food safety throughout the company can be a source of pride for employees and will build customer trust in your brand. What a great competitive advantage!
  2. Resist the temptation to put financial considerations before food safety. It can kill your customers and your business. Consider the costs of a recall and PR nightmare.
  3. Education and training is needed, from top to bottom, to raise awareness of the hazards and how to control them.
  4. Ensure food safety is part of the product development process.
  5. A Quality Assurance or Food Safety Manager who does their job well, is the “hero” helping you make a better product, not the “bad guy” costing your business money.
  6. Having and strictly following a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) plan is a must. You owe it to your customers. Certification under GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) schemes such as BRC, SQF, etc. is even better. Most major food retailers require their suppliers to be GFSI certified.
  7. When sourcing ingredients, don’t automatically trust your suppliers. Due diligence is required. Inspect their facility, if possible, and insist on proof of quality and food safety (certificates of analysis, product and ingredient specifications, audit reports, etc.).
  8. Your accountability doesn’t stop when your product goes out the door. Following a traceability program will be required under Health Canada’s Safe Food For Canadian’s Act (SFCA) and the American Food & Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

When it comes to food safety, validating your assumptions can be an eye-opener. Even an expert doesn’t know everything.

One final thought… Celebrate food safety. It’s part of a strong and competitive brand.

Posted by Birgit Blain, President of Birgit Blain & Associates Inc., packaged food specialists providing pain relief for food brands. www.BBandAssoc.com

Upcoming Food Safety Summit

 There’s one event that I definitely enjoy attending on an annual basis – the North American Food Safety Summit. It provides me with the opportunity to learn and stay abreast of industry related issues, to connect and network with others and gain insight from key leaders. WFIM has partnered with the Team at the Strategy Institute and we are both very excited to celebrate the “10th” Annual North American Food Safety Summit!

As mentioned above, WFIM is very pleased to be partnering with The Strategy Institute on the 10th Annual North American Summit on Food Safety – and invite you to mark your calendars for two wonderful days of learning and best practice sharing on March 5th and 6th, 2014.  As a partner of the summit, all WFIM members get a 20% discount on the registration fee!  Just use the code WFIM20 when you register.

The Food Safety Summit provides an opportunity for Manufacturers and Processors, and those up and down the value chain, together with service providers, government agencies and suppliers to connect on all issues related to the conference focus.  It is a perfect opportunity to learn the latest in legislative updates, to gain insight from peer best practices, and to hear from industry experts.

It’s going to be a great two-day event that tackles issues relating to food safety such as:

* Outbreak Management:  Learn from the Cronut Burger investigation
* Government Regulations:  Updates from the CFIA and FDA
* Supply Chain Management:  Lessons learnt from the European horse meat recall
* Food Defence:  Prepare against acts of intentional contamination
* Sanitation Innovation:  Improve safety with cutting-edge technology
* Food Safety Culture:  Maximize safety and value from the front-line
* Risk Management:  Provide detailed information to key stakeholders
* Retail Food Safety:  Global best practices from Wal-Mart and Target
* Vendor Management:  Drive continuous improvement
* Small-to-Medium Businesses:  Compliance on a restricted budget
* Pathogens Detection:  Tools to prevent the spread of microorganisms
* Auditing Roadmap:  Enhance your processes for increased productivity

This year’s Pre-Conference Workshop will be help on Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 and will be focusing on Internal Risk Assessments.

Each day will include a variety of case studies and panel discussion and new this year will be two tracks that attendees can choose from – Safety and Logistics!

Without a doubt – this will be an excellent, excellent Summit full of opportunities!

The 10th Annual North American Food Safety Summit (www.foodsafetycanada.com) is scheduled for March 5th and 6th, 2014 and will be held at the International Plaza Hotel in Toronto, Ontario.  More detailed information and a complete Agenda overview is available online and if you are interested in joining us, we would love to see you there!

Three Easy Ways to Register:

  1. Register      Online at:  www.foodsafetycanada.com
  2. Email:      registrations@strategyinstitute.com
  3. Call:      (866) 298-9343 ext 200 (Toll Free)

Remember, to use the code WFIM20 to get your 20% discount!

All the very best!


Bren de Leeuw, WFIM Director of Events
bren.mckeachnie@gmail.com – 519-372-6009