Food executives holding board positions at auditor AIB ‘could be a conflict’

One of the sidebars to the Bloomberg Markets Magazine piece about auditors and food safety led by Stephanie Armour, focuses on AIB International, the auditor involved in some big-time screw-ups, like the Peanut Corp of America outbreak that killed nine and sickened 700 and the Wright egg Salmonella outbreak that sickened almost 2,000.

Turns out, AIB Chairman David Murphy is president of Mother Murphy’s Laboratories Inc., a Greensboro, North Carolina, flavoring company that uses AIB to vet its factories. AIB Vice Chairman Donald Thriffiley Jr. is a senior vice president of Flowers Foods in Thomasville, Georgia. Flowers, which makes Tastykake desserts, uses AIB audits.

AIB’s previous chairman, Daniel Babin, is vice president of supply chain strategy at Bimbo Bakeries USA Inc. in Horsham, Pennsylvania. Its parent, Mexico City-based Grupo Bimbo SAB, the world’s largest breadmaker, with brands such as Arnold bread and Thomas’ English Muffins, is audited by AIB.

Spokespeople for Bimbo and Mother Murphy’s said there was no conflict and these relationships didn’t affect audits of their operations. Flowers Foods says Thriffiley works to ensure that audits are independent and impartial.

“We do not believe that serving on the AIB board would in any way influence the outcome or quality of the inspections,” says David Marguiles, a Bimbo spokesman.

The American National Standards Institute, a group that oversees private auditors on behalf of the Global Food Safety Initiative, hasn’t cited AIB for any conflicts, says Maureen Olewnik, AIB’s vice president for auditing.

ANSI’s vice president for accreditation, Lane Hallenbeck, says he didn’t know that executives at food companies held posts at AIB; he plans to investigate.

“It sounds likes this could potentially be a conflict,” Hallenbeck says.