Contamination in food can occur due to various factors including any human error, environmental factor, low hygienic condition or can be intentional in nature to sabotage the products. Food defense is a set plan made to protect the final food product from any form of intentional adulteration and contamination. Intentional adulteration can be of biological, chemical, physical, or radiological form. It also provides physical, personnel and operational security.
It is quite common to misunderstand food defense with food safety, needless to say both terms are different from each other. Food safety is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent foodborne illness. It includes a number of routines that should be followed to avoid potential health hazards and most importantly, this program attempt to prevent unintentional contamination.
Food prepared in large batches are a higher risk as large batches offer more servings and hence more possibility to reach out to large mass. Short shelf life increases risk as rapid consumption of the product makes it harder to identify a problem and warn consumers. There should be restricted access during the production and distribution to keep check on any intentional contamination. Threat can be either internal or external. Internal threats could be disgruntled employees, vendors or contractors i.e., people that have ready access to the facility while external threats must gain access to the facility through forced entry or a weakness in the facilities access control program and they could be criminals, protesters, terrorists, people coming in to the food facility may be as visitors etc.
To prevent any unwanted case of sabotage, it is important to come up with a plan so that no such situation is faced. There should be present plant that should be made by the facility in accordance to their requirement and from also from where intentional contamination can be caused.
There should be written policies and programs in place to keep food safe from unintentional contamination with properly managed recall and traceability Program in case of any such situation occur. Sufficient self-inspection program should be there in facility along with chemical control program. There should be visitor and contractor entry policy so that before entering in plant personal can be identified.
- Entry gates should have proper lighting and have installed security cameras.
- Incoming ingredients or trucks with raw material or packaging material should have proper checking at entry point.
- All outgoing shipments should have proper seal on them so that any tampering can show evidence to sabotage chances and can be rejected.
- All entry and exit doors should be locked when not in use and should be under surveillance.
- Pass cards need to be issued for all personals other than facility member on some entrances itself.
- Inside processing facility along with employees, visitors/contractors should also wear hairnets and should follow all dress code.
- It should be mandated to sign in and out for visitors/contractors entering the plant.
- Background checks and personality tests for employees before hiring them.
- Restrictions on what employees can bring into the facility.
- Employees should be provided with Security training
Employees are the FIRST line of Food Defense
Follow company food defense plan and procedures
Inspect your work area and surrounding areas
Recognize anything out of the ordinary
Secure all ingredients, supplies and finished product
Tell supervision if you notice anything unusual or suspicious
Step 1: Identify the hazards– Real or potential conditions that could introduce a harmful agent into the food chain that could cause property damage, illness, death or jeopardize employee safety should be timely identified so that further planning can be done to keep check at situation.
Step 2: Asses the risks– it is always necessary to ask ne self-questions like what would happen if someone entered the unsecured door? Could they contaminate product? Could they harm employees? What can be the overall impact of this hazard? These type of question can help in the assessment of risk
Step 3: Analyze risk control measures– Once possible risk has been assessed and identified there need to be proper planning and designing for minimum risk. Planning can include incorporation of safety devices, providing warning devices, and developing procedures to fight such risk by proper training to employees. Never the less it is never possible to completely eliminate the risk.
Step 4: Risk control decision- It always benefits outweigh risks or cost. It involves personnel impact that can be caused by risk control actions so it is recommended to evaluate impact on the facility of the risk control action. The goal should not be to lower the level of risk, it should be to bring the risk level down to best level or risk for overall food safety and security.
Step 5: Implement risk controls– If not put risk control actions in place it can be futile to have food defense plan hence risk checks should be implemented for all process and equipment’s.
Step 6: Supervise and Review- Reviewing and maintaining a food defense plan is important to ensure it remains functional. It is recommended to ensure risk controls are effective and annual auditing can be helpful.