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The value of setting the standard

Standards touch every aspect of civilized human endeavor. For me personally, I have been involved in creating, implementing and using standards in my professional life for about three decades. But despite having my own very strong preconceived notions about the subject, I also wanted a little
bit of external context to inform my column, so I did what a lot of people would do: I Googled it.
“Hey Google, why are standards important?”

The results were pretty familiar:

  • “Standards set goals and expectations.”
  • “Standards help to promote industry best practices.”
  • “Standards reduce costs.”
  • “Standards create consistency.”
The following is a guest column from Andy Powers, ADPI Vice President of Technical Services published in the June 7, 2023 issue of Cheese Market News.

And so on. But almost every description I read about the importance of standards just seemed to miss the mark a bit, so I spent a little time distilling down the value of standards in my own experience, applying my personal history of using standards for many purposes across several different industries.
When you get down to brass tacks, I think the value of standards can be summarized in a single word: trust.People seek out standards to establish trust. Trust that an article is genuine; that an ingredient will function the way it’s expected to function; that it contains what it is supposed to contain (and is free of things it should not); and that a food will meet expectations for safety, quality and nutrition, each and every time.

Standards definitely have intrinsic value, but they’re also only as good as the organization that stands behind them. People can and should turn to reliable sources for standards: respectable authorities with real skin in the game and with a track record of proven guidance for the industries
they represent.

Useful standards create trust by serving three very important purposes:

  1. Standards establish identity.
    They define what a product must be, according to all critical dimensions. And by establishing this identity, they also exclude products that would otherwise mislead, fall short, cut corners or introduce risk.
  2. Standards provide protection for everyone who agrees to use them.
    They may shield against physical harm, illness or financial risk. They serve as a tool to reduce the underlying uncertainty. The mutual commitment to use standards makes the world a safer place.
  3. Standards are enablers of commerce.
    They must not be frivolous, defining products or ideas that have no value. Creating standards is not an exercise. Instead, they must serve to establish a common language by which buyers and sellers conduct their business, domestically and abroad, both with commodities (whose standards may be simpler) and with value-added products (whose standards may be substantially more complex). The customer’s purchase order specifies a product according to its standard, and the contract obliges the supplier to deliver a product that conforms. Barriers are lowered, regulations are followed, expectations are clear, business moves forward. They do not hinder; they facilitate.

The American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI) has a 100-year legacy of dairy industry leadership, and our Ingredient Standards are a cornerstone of our knowledge-based approach to this leadership role. Our current range of Ingredient Standards, developed by technical and marketing experts from
our member community, not only define fundamental dairy ingredients such as milk powders, but also a host of established or emerging ingredients that are on the competitive edge of functionality and nutrition, such as protein concentrates, isolates, and specific bioactive protein and lipid fractions.

How many standards, you may ask? The ADPI catalog consists of more than 30 documents representing an even greater number of individual dairy ingredients — everything from alpha-lactalbumin to whole milk powder. And the count is growing: We have two entirely new documents pending approval by our Standards Committee right now, with two more related standards immediately following those, and two more in the development queue after that. The dairy industry never stops innovating, so our work to establish the standards is never done!

Our staff have given decades of commitment to define the products that make the dairy industry what it is today. Not only have we worked hard throughout our history to ensure that our standards evolve with the ever-expanding mix of products, but we are continuing to make sure that the language and content of our standards, both new and legacy, are aligned with industry best practices, food safety requirements and quality systems controls. Every single one of our legacy standards has been reviewed to ensure that it remains on-brand, contemporary and fit for purpose.

New features that have been implemented across the board include:

  • Reorganizing the entire library of documents into a consistent, easy-to-follow format;
  • Incorporating Enterobacteriaceae as an optional complement to coliforms testing for monitoring general process sanitation;
  • Simplifying recommendations around product storage, shipping and packaging;
  • Assigning version numbers and effective dates, ensuring compliance with Good Document Control practices; and 
  • Providing a revision history section in each document, explaining the full history of its evolution as a standard.

These written Ingredient Standards are not the only way that ADPI sets the bar: We have also historically supplied Nonfat Dry Milk Reference Standard powders, certified with values for whey
protein nitrogen (WPN), to define the distinction between low-, medium- and high-heat powders. This spring, we carefully reevaluated this program with an eye toward delivering even more value, and now we are ready to take the next step. Look for ADPI to make an announcement in the very near future about our forward path with this program!

Did you know that we also publish standard Methods of Analysis, and are co-originators of the popular Scorched Particle Standards for Dry Milks, the Standard Lactose Color Chart and the Standard Whey Color Chart?

The ADPI standards in their many forms are useful resources that help dairy to fulfill its promise to deliver safe, high-quality nutrition to consumers around the world. If you already use our standards, then we thank you for relying on us to help get the job done. But if ADPI is new to you, then visit our Ingredient Resource Center and start leveraging these tools to help drive your business.

Trust me. It’s worth your time.

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