March 15, 2016


By: Vonnie Shepherd

For nearly 35 years, I have been involved in quality in the food industry and currently serve as director of global quality assurance at AFB International. You might ask, “What does a typical day look like in quality assurance (QA) at AFB?“ I can assure you no two days are the same; however, our approach to ensuring quality is consistent.

Collaboration is Key

At the heart of AFB’s QA efforts are talented, dedicated people. I have the privilege of leading the QA team at our North American headquarters in St. Charles, Mo., USA, as well as providing support to the QA teams at our pet food palatant manufacturing facilities around the globe. By design, QA does not manufacture products. Rather, we provide a service that ensures the manufactured products meet quality and food safety standards. Our job is to continuously collaborate, communicate and problem-solve within our internal organization, as well as our customers.

At AFB, that means working closely with our team members around the world to ensure key processes are standardized. For our customers, that translates to providing palatant consistency and product safety throughout all global AFB manufacturing facilities. Our goal is to ensure both our internal and external customers have the highest level of confidence in our products.

AFB’s Quality Assurance

So what might a typical “day in the life” include for AFB QA team members? Here are a few common activities:

Approve raw ingredients. QA works closely with the procurement and research and development teams to ensure safe, quality ingredients are utilized in our pet food palatants.

Deliver processes and batch sheets to the manufacturing floor. QA creates batch sheets from a palatant formula designed by AFB. We provide assistance in creating standard processes designed to ensure consistent batch-to-batch results.

Monitor quality metrics. We have stringent protocols for testing our products for critical attributes, including protein, fat, moisture and ash, as well microbiological and other food safety requirements. All products must meet their respective specifications prior to being approved for shipment. This is done to provide the customer assurance that their final product, which includes our final product, is safe and will meet performance parameters.

Lead cross-functional continuous improvement initiatives to ensure we have sustainable programs and important certifications in place. Currently we are working toward certification through the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), with a target of having all AFB locations certified by close of 2017. This certification will drive key behaviors to support making it right the first time, improving quality and reducing waste.

Perform QA audits. Some days it’s a customer audit, other days it’s a facility compliance audit or maybe a supplier audit. Audits are designed to dig deeper to ensure all aspects of a given system provide consistent and reliable product quality. These audits also feed our continuous improvement efforts and validate that our processes are being executed and maintained appropriately.

Answer customer requests. Every day we receive customer questions we strive to answer promptly. Topics might include how we comply with Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations, what testing protocols are in place to prevent impurities in our products or how we measure product stability and freshness.

My job also includes keeping a finger on the pulse of pet food regulations and food safety initiatives such as FSMA. I’m an active member of the American Society of Quality and the Institute of Food Technologists. I also attend events and share expertise with colleagues to stay updated on the latest QA trends and food safety opportunities.

Learn More

Sharing knowledge and working together is an important part of my job. I’d enjoy talking with you about how AFB’s QA approach can support your success. Contact me at or connect with your local AFB representative.


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