Food defense action being taken ahead of regulation - TycoIS

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

FDSE was held from May 19 – 21 in Chicago
FDSE was held from May 19 – 21 in Chicago

Related tags Risk Security

Major brand companies are aware of the threat posed by deliberate contamination and are taking mitigating food defense steps ahead of regulation but the risk is greater from smaller companies, according to Tyco Integrated Security.

The firm said deliberate contamination could be one way to harm large segments of the population.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared 2015 the ‘Year of FSMA,’ with the final rule on intentional adulteration due on May 31, 2016.

TycoIS provides security to all levels of food manufacturers and distributors including intrusion detection, access control, video surveillance, fire and life safety, loss prevention, critical condition monitoring and emergency response planning.

Ahead of regulation

A single food safety or recall incident could critically damage a company, said Don Hsieh, director, commercial and industrial marketing for TycoIS.

“Major brand companies are aware of the threat, there has been concern since [the terrorist attacks of] 9/11 to put in place a plan and it is not just a regulatory requirement,” ​he told FoodQualityNews.

“There is a FSMA rule for May 31, 2016 and large companies need to comply by May 31, 2017 so they are ahead of regulation, preparing for the rule to happen and wanting to protect their brand and the consumer. It only takes one event to cause damage to the brand.

“The risk is more in the smaller companies, it is true what they say, the chain is only as good as the weakest link and it could be that an intentional adulteration is passed up the chain.”

Hsieh explained the difference between food defense and food safety.

Food defense is protecting against intentional adulteration, food safety is unintentional adulteration and food protection is the sum of both,” ​he said.

“Especially with FSMA we are moving to preventive controls and not just reacting.

“A food defense plan assesses vulnerabilities in the supply chain and your system so you can identify risk and figure out how to mitigate it.”

Four step approach

The company proposes four 'A' steps as part as a food defense plan: assess, access, alerts and audit, said Hsieh.

“Assessment looks at each company and helps them take measures to prevent an incident,” ​he said.

“Access is about mitigating access to control points such as the mixing area, only to people authorised to be in that area. It is often hard to secure with a door because it is in the middle of the plant so you might want to prevent a finance employee, for example, going there.

“Do they have a reason to be there? Food plants are difficult because there are contractors and visitors walking through different areas and while at reception everything might be alright, does someone know where they are at all times when walking through the plant.

“Alerts are about detecting any issue early and deterring it. An alert when there is a problem before it is too late can minimise damage. You can use RFID or video analytics and send information to a monitoring company.

“Audit is about more than just doing what you should when someone with a clipboard and paper is watching, you can have remote video and audit randomly and at different shifts.”

FDSE conference

To tackle industry challenges, Tyco hosted its sixth annual Food Defense Strategy Exchange (FDSE) last month.

The conference was around three themes: Preparing for FSMA, Global Food Supply Chain Risks and Food Defense in Action.

Speakers included John Woody, FDA, Fred Stephens, FBI, John Spink, Michigan State University and Jessica Cox, department of Homeland Security.

Hsieh said its approach is customised based on risk and not a one size fits all.

“In a security audit we walk through the plant and see this can be improved by adding video cameras like in the loading dock for example or intrusion detectors, motion sensors on the roof,” ​he said.

“It depends where the plant is, if it is in the middle of a city then risks are different than the corn fields in the Mid-West.”

Hsieh said some firms may take the view if they have not had an event in the past, they are not at risk.

“You need to do a risk assessment on the tools specific to your chain, where are the factories, distribution channels, what are your products. What is the value of the brand, how much risk are you willing to take. It needs to be assessed with a business mind and a view to return on investment.”

Food defense was not just something unique to the USA, said Hsieh. 

“There have been incidents in Italy and Japan. The USA started to think more about it after 9/11, in the EU they are starting to think about it after horse meat, it was not a health risk, but it exposed the supply chain and the issue of needing to track and trace and vet that suppliers have intervention and controls.”​ 

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