Wakefern Dietitian Shares Labeling, Regulatory Insights

Wakefern Dietitian Shares Labeling, Regulatory Insights

October 29, 2014

Are you interested in labeling, regulatory affairs and quality assurance? Katherine Kennedy, quality assurance specialist at Wakefern Food Corp gives us an insight into her role at Wakefern.

How did you get started in labeling, regulatory affairs, and QA?
My first experience in regulatory affairs and nutrition labeling began during my dietetic internship. I had the opportunity to complete a month long placement at Kraft Foods, which positioned me well to apply for a job in nutrition labeling and regulatory right after my internship ended. I accepted my current position in quality assurance at Wakefern Food Corp about 3 years ago and have since expanded my knowledge of the field concerning regulations pertaining to all food products sold in our retail locations.

How is the work you do tied into ShopRite’s healthy living programs the store dietitians offer?
I work with the retail dietitians in a variety of ways. I support the Dietitian’s Selection program, which provides guidelines for both healthier prepared foods and packaged food items. I also work with our team of nearly 100 retail dietitians concerning nutrition labeling and policy issues- such as allergens, gluten-free, ingredients, nutrition facts panel and interpretation of regulations and other topics pertaining to nutrition applications.

What advice would you give to an RD looking to gain experience in labeling and regulatory affairs?
My advice for an RD looking to gain experience in labeling and regulatory affairs is to apply for experiences, unpaid internships or jobs in the field.  It is a very specialized area and it is imperative that you learn on the job from experienced professionals. I would also recommend that an RD become familiar with the Code of Federal Regulations and speak to those in the field to become better versed in related topics.

How do you measure the return-on-investment of the work you do?
The work is all about compliance and interpretation of regulations as it pertains to food. Therefore, it is necessary to have staff that is knowledgeable about the subject when reviewing packaging and developing policies for retail stores to ensure high quality product and information that is factual and not misleading to the cons

Does Wakefern have established “guardrails” around nutrition that are implemented in your owned brands?
Wakefern continuously adapts to the evolution of consumers’ product wants and needs, specifically when it comes to nutrition and product formulations.  We also work to prepare for regulatory changes such as nutrition labeling reform and other issues.

Do you have owned brands specifically related to healthy living topics? An organic brand? A healthy kids brand?
Yes, there is a ShopRite Certified Organic product line, which contains only USDA Certified Organic items. We also review all of our private label items for product attributes which are indicated on packaging to help consumers understand how various items fit into their lifestyles. We use terms like low sodium, all natural, whole grain, gluten free and high protein. We must remain current on how product claims and attributes are perceived by the consumer and regulated by government agencies in order to help our customers find high quality and healthful items.

How does your role interact with merchandising and marketing?
I work closely with the branding division on private label package and provide labeling claims that are in compliance with FDA and USDA regulations. All information on packaging and labeling of private label products must be reviewed and approved by Quality Assurance prior to product being placed for sale.

Katherine Kennedy is a quality assurance specialist at Wakefern Food Corp.  She received her undergraduate degree in nutritional science from the University of New Hampshire in 2008, and then attended the College of St. Elizabeth where she completed her dietetic internship in 2009.  During her internship she completed a rotation at Gerber and Nestle Nutrition and then worked in nutrition labeling and regulatory at Kraft Foods.  Katherine currently works at Wakefern Food Corp. in the quality assurance division, and is working towards a Master of Science in Regulatory Affairs at Northeastern University. Katherine lives in Montclair, NJ.