How one candy maker complies with the FDA-mandated bioterrorism regulation

Published 30 June 2006

The U.S. 2002 bioterrorism law is not only about anthrax, it is also about something as benign as candy: just ask this large European candy maker can tell you (by the way this candy maker makes the popular candy Airheads)

The U.S. subsidiary of Perfetti Van Melle (PVM), the sixth largest candy maker in the world, produces the popular Airheads, Airheads Extreme, and Mentos, primarily in its plant in Kentucky. Its operation in the United States ranks as a mid-size company, but PVM competes head to head with candy giants such as Hershey and Mars. It operates around the clock, five days a week, making three million colorful Airheads a day, at a rate of approximately 6,000 pounds of candy per hour. The plant uses ten million pounds of sugar a year to make cherry, blue raspberry, watermelon, strawberry, green apple, orange, and “white mystery” Airheads, and the vibrant red, yellow, green, orange, and aqua Airhead Extreme Sour Belts.

Much has changed after 9/11. One U.S. government directive was the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Bioterrorism Act of 2002, which is playing a major role in the global food industry. This act requires companies that process, pack, manufacture, or hold food that will be consumed in the United States to register with the FDA. Companies also have to maintain detailed records on acquisition, production, distribution, and sale of food products, and to provide the FDA with detailed tracing of any food product at a moment’s notice. Companies the size of PVM were on the hook: They had to comply by the 9 June 2006. Those which have not complied are now facing significant penalties, and in certain cases violators may be criminally prosecuted.

So what did PVM do?