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Private Food Inspection Firm Has Directors From Its Customers

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Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The auditing firms that the food industry hires to ensure the safety of its products sometimes have close ties to their clients. At monitoring firm AIB International, two top decision makers are executives at companies that use AIB for audits.

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, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its November issue.

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.

Editors: Jonathan Neumann, Gail Roche

To contact the reporters on this story: Stephanie Armour in Washington at sarmour@bloomberg.net

John Lippert in Chicago at jlippert@bloomberg.net;

Michael Smith in Santiago at Mssmith@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonathan Neumann at jneumann2@bloomberg.net