A team of officials representing key departments of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) visited Wells Enterprises, Inc., and two of its facilities in LeMars, Iowa, this week to see firsthand the company’s manufacturing practices for consistently ensuring food safety, quality and allergen protection during the production process.
Wells Enterprises, which makes Blue Bunny ice cream and frozen desserts, is a member of the International Dairy Foods Association, and together they arranged for a six-person team from FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition to tour the plants, which make packaged ice cream and frozen novelties. The visit was designed to help inform the agency’s ongoing efforts to update its Frozen Dessert Processing Guidelines and make certain that any new recommendations align with good manufacturing practices and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
Monica Metz, chief of milk and milk products for FDA, joined the other agency representatives for a comprehensive, two-day tour of the Wells Enterprises manufacturing plants. During the tour, employees demonstrated their knowledge and understanding of the importance of food safety and shared how the Wells team approaches the process within the manufacturing facilities.
More than 30 Wells employees participated, including five members of the company’s leadership team: Mike Wells, CEO; Ramin Ghaffari, senior vice president, operations and logistics; Brad Swart, senior director, quality and food safety; Brad Galles, South ice cream plant manager; and Lyle Loutsch, North ice cream plant manager.
“Our employees embrace our food safety culture, it is the way we work at Wells. I’m proud of how our employees embraced the opportunity to share their knowledge and learn from the best,” explained CEO Mike Wells. “Hosting the FDA was a great opportunity for us to work together for the benefit of the industry but, more importantly, the consumer.”
IDFA and Wells welcomed the agency’s interest in gaining a better understanding of the good manufacturing practices that apply specifically to ice cream and frozen desserts. Several members of the FDA team are part of a working group that will be revising the dated Frozen Dessert Processing Guidelines, which were last updated in 1989.
“I’m pleased that IDFA and Wells Enterprises could provide the FDA team an opportunity to gain deeper insight into how ice cream facilities operate and to see firsthand the priority that our members like Wells place on food safety,” said John Allan, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs and international standards. “Hopefully the visit will help to inform the efforts of the FDA team as they finalize updates to the guidelines.”
‘One-stop Learning Spot’ for FDA
“Wells produces all the different products that are covered within the guidelines and is a great ‘one-stop’ learning spot for FDA,” said Brian Kraus, director of food safety and regulatory compliance with Wells Enterprises. “It is a great opportunity for the industry and the agency to work together for the benefit of the consumer.”
He added, “Additionally, the FDA team will walk away with a better understanding of the challenges and resources it takes to build best-in-class food safety systems demonstrating compliance to the preventive controls rule under FSMA.”
A driving force for excellence in food safety for more than 30 years, Kraus received IDFA’s Food Safety Leadership Award in 2017. He has trained Wells employees on effective preventive controls in ice cream production and serves as a subject matter expert and trainer in a number of dairy industry food safety programs. In addition, Kraus has provided his company and the industry with a much-needed tool for verification and validation in allergen-control programs.
Joining Metz on the visit were five consumer safety officers in FDA’s Milk and Milk Products Branch. They are Laurie Bucher, Pryia Kadam, Cindy Leonard, Steve Sims and Steve Walker, Ph.D.
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, D.C., represents the nation’s dairy manufacturing and marketing industry, which supports nearly 3 million jobs, generates more than $39 billion in direct wages and has an overall economic impact of more than $628 billion. IDFA is the umbrella organization for the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF), the National Cheese Institute (NCI) and the International Ice Cream Association (IICA). IDFA’s members range from large multinational organizations to single-plant companies. Together they represent more than 85 percent of the milk, cultured products, cheese, ice cream and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the United States and sold throughout the world. The diverse membership includes numerous food retailers, suppliers and companies that offer infant formula and a wide variety of milk-derived ingredients. IDFA can be found at www.idfa.org.
About Wells Enterprises, Inc.
Wells Enterprises, Inc. is the largest privately held, family-owned ice cream manufacturer in the United States. Founded in 1913 by Fred H. Wells, the company is still proudly owned by the Wells family today.
Wells produces more than 150 million gallons of ice cream per year and distributes products in all 50 states. With more than 1,200 different ice cream and frozen novelty products, Wells manufacturers its signature brand Blue Bunny®, the iconic Bomb Pop™, Blue Ribbon Classics® and its newest brand, Chilly Cow™.
Wells employs over 2,800 ice cream aficionados and has two manufacturing plants in Le Mars. The company continues to be headquartered in Le Mars, Iowa, and as the world's largest manufacturer of ice cream in one location, Wells has made Le Mars, Iowa, the "Ice Cream Capital of the World.”