Food Defense: A Shield for Businesses and Consumers
In an era of globalization, the world has become a smaller space. It has become easier to travel and transport things from one corner of the world to another. Likewise, the complexity, diversity and dependency on intertwined domestic and global processes continue to grow in the food system. At the same time, there are increasingly possible causes of deliberate adulteration that continue to develop, become more complex, and will simultaneously have a direct effect on public health. So: to prevent, plan, respond to, and recover from acts of deliberate adulteration of the distribution of food, Food Defensebecame an important part for shielding food businesses and consumers from any potential threats.
Food Safety and Food Defense
To protect and prevent food from any adulteration – whether it is intended or not, regulatory requirements have been put into place, which are based on food safety and food defense procedures. In other words, food defense and food safety contribute to the prevention of adulteration. The key difference between these two types of training is that food safety prevents food from unintentional adulteration. Food defense is responsible for protecting and preventing the public from intentional adulteration, which in turn may cause harm to consumers.
What is Food Defense?
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) states “Food defense is the effort to protect food from acts of intentional adulteration.” So, more basically stated, it prevents consumers’ health from any physical, chemical, and biological impurities deliberately added to food that could harm the consumers’ health. Due to increasing need for food defense, FDA issued a rule in May 2016 under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The main objective of the rule is to prohibit deliberate adulteration of actions designed to cause systemic damage to public health, including acts of terrorism targeted at food sources. Although these actions are unlikely to occur, they could potentially cause disease, death, and economic destruction to the food chain if there are no prevention strategies in place. Additionally, FDA has developed a range of instruments and tools to help food facilities prevent, plan, respond to, and recover from acts of deliberate adulteration of food facilities.
Food Defense Plan
In accordance with FDA, it is required for both domestic and foreign companies that are registered with FDA as food facility to formulate and execute food defense plan. A food defense plan must include a vulnerability assessment, mitigation strategies, food defense monitoring of the implementation of mitigation strategies, corrective actions, verification procedures, and logs or records. Every three years or where conditions have failed (such as mitigation techniques that are found to be poorly applied) a reanalysis is required. A detailed overview of what needs to be included in a food defense plan is outlined in 21CFR121. This plan will help the facility to find out what precautions one must take to reduce the risk of food items in the facility being tampered with or deliberately poisoned. A food defense plan will strengthen the preparedness of a food processor. These protocols will also enhance the ability to respond efficiently during a crisis, where stress levels are elevated and reaction time is minimal. As it is a very new concept for the industry, FDA has published a number of tools and assistance on their website (https://www.fda.gov/food/food-defense).
Future and Present Situation
With intentional food adulteration and food fraud on the rise, it is crucial for food facilities to keep their food defense plan updated. Manufacturers should make sure to revisit and review their food defense plans for any improvements to facility designs or techniques, product changes, and protection upgrades. Facilities should also track their workers on a daily basis, both in terms of satisfaction and understanding. This will benefit the facility, the health of consumers, and eventually the economy of the country.
A Note from ConnectFood CEO Matthew Botos:
Food Defense is the protection of food products from contamination or adulteration intended to cause public health harm or economic disruption. The mission of the Food Defense Programs is to protect the U.S. food supply from dynamic and evolving threats. ConnectFood and the Institute for Food Safety and Health conducted a two-day workshop on Food Defense last week. The workshop focused on how Food Defense is developed and the fundamental building blocks of our existing food safety plans. We taught with the understanding that we are facing trying times locally and globally. The class was interactive across abroad range of companies and allow for discussion and training allowing companies to supplement their existing best practices. Food is a vector that has long been used to disrupt supply chains and cause unfavorable conditions for consumers. ConnectFood.com strives to keep the food supply safe and secure by providing documentation that meets requirements for Food Defense.
About the Author
Saloni Shah received a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology from India. She is currently pursuing an M.S. in Food Safety and Technology from the Illinois Institute of Technology. She is also a research assistant working on a thesis focusing on food packaging materials and additives under a FDA scientist and is currently working as part of the Food Safety Specialist internship at ConnectFood.com.