Site Security and Food Defense: beyond food safety
The problems of Site Security (SS) and Food Defense (FD) is now so relevant that the main two internationally recognised Standards (BRC and IFS Food), have introduced specific requirements related to these issues in their latest versions (6).
For the majority of European companies this is a relatively new dimension to consider.
The widely accepted definition of food safety at the international level is the one developed by the World Food Summit in 1996. It describes a situation in which "all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic availability to sufficient safe and nutritious food, which can ensure their needs and food preferences for an active and healthy lifestyle" (FAO, 1996).
If the HACCP system is planned to identify and control the physical, chemical and biological risks to food safety, the Food Defense Plan is designed to identify, mitigate and monitor potential sources of intentional contamination of food.
Modern businesses that want to operate to any scale in the food market, must now look to deal with food protection that goes beyond the mere concept of Food Security.
The companies must consider risks that are unrelated with the organization in itself, such as bomb threats, bioterrorism, and in general the defense of its site from external attacks.
Food Defense is the term commonly used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to define activities related to the protection of foodstuffs in their own country from intentional acts of contamination or tampering.
Any acts of deliberate contamination of food products are now widely reported due to the internet and other media.
Their purpose is to undermine the production and trade capacity of organizations with actions like sabotage of production lines or the alteration of foodstuff intended for the commercial use.
Whoever carries out these acts may wish to cause damage to a particular company or to a particular food sector, but in both cases, although the impact may be limited or contained (e.g. only a few cases of illness), they still generate anxiety and negative press when they are made public.
Consequently, there is a loss of consumer confidence towards the companies involved, that have not adequately protected their products. It is easy to understand how such issues can then have a negative impact on business, both domestically and internationally.
The protection of production facilities (factories, warehouses, etc.) and logistic transport from food sabotage is therefore a real priority for any food company.
For companies that export their products to the U.S., there are specific requirements to ensure the safety of production sites, as a result of U.S. rules against bioterrorism (see the Bioterrorism Act).