Food Defense: Protecting the Food Supply from Intentional Harm
What are the benefits of developing a food defense plan?
Having a food defense plan for your operation can reduce the risk of intentional contamination to your operation and may ultimately benefit your bottom line.
Writing the plan helps you identify steps that can be taken to reduce the risk that animals or food in your facility can be harmed by intentional contamination. In addition, thinking through the processes used in your operation while developing your food defense plan can help you pinpoint inefficiencies and redundancies that are costing your operation money.
A well-developed response plan helps family members, employees and disaster response personnel respond appropriately to a suspected intentional contamination incident. It maps out a way to contain the damage and get your operation back to normal production levels more quickly. By helping you avoid a prolonged period of non-production, a food defense plan increases your business’ chance of surviving a negative event.
All told, a food defense plan will help you provide safe, high-quality products to your customers, keep your employees safe and well informed, and protect the economic health of your business.
What operations are required to have a food defense plan?
Operations supplying food for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) feeding programs are legally required to have a food defense plan.
Food defense plans are recommended but not required by the following agencies for the specified food operations or products:
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
Meat, poultry, egg and catfish
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Foods other than those covered by FSIS
FDA and FSIS inspectors will ask if an establishment has a food defense plan and, if so, will view the plan. FSIS is continuing surveys of inspected plants, hoping to achieve 90 percent voluntary compliance before deciding whether to seek regulation requiring meat and poultry slaughter or processing facilities to have a food defense plan. At the same time, FDA is seeking more regulatory control over food safety and security. By developing a food defense plan now, your operation will be ahead of the game.
What are the steps in developing a food defense plan?
A food defense plan is not nearly so daunting to develop as some of the government-required plans you have already developed, such as a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan. You can develop a comprehensive food defense plan for your operation in four relatively easy steps.
Look for areas where your operation may not be secure. You will need to consider, for example, the accessibility of various areas of your operation, the security of your internal processes and your shipping and receiving system, and the thoroughness of your employee screening and training procedures.
Write your food defense plan
Write a food defense plan that addresses your operation’s vulnerabilities; specifies simple, practical and economical countermeasures to be implemented; and assigns responsibility and a timeline for implementation of each countermeasure.
Prepare a response plan
Because food defense planning reduces the risk of intentional contamination rather than eliminating it, you will need to write a response plan for fast, efficient containment of any emergency that does occur.
Manage your food defense plan
Plan management involves reviewing the plan periodically as well as anytime a change is made to your operation that could potentially open up new vulnerabilities, and testing the plan either randomly or on a set schedule two to four times a year.
With a food defense plan in place, you can feel more confident in your operation’s ability to protect the food supply from intentional contamination.