Farm to Fork 2018 was held in Walla Walla, Washington. This was an awesome effort hosted by the Agriculture Center of Excellence at Walla Walla Community College, and included support and input from the Center of Excellence for Homeland Security Emergency Management at Pierce College, and the Center of Excellence Global Trade & Supply Chain Management at Highline College.
The diverse securing the supply chain program addressed this year’s theme “Pathways to Resilience”. Farm to Fork 2018 commenced with an appeal from John Larson, Senior Vice President of the American Farmland Trust to preserve our US farms and food producing agricultural lands. This was followed by a panel discussion that included the American Farmland Trust, Conservation Commission, and a farmland owner regarding Land Trusts and how they work to protect farmlands.
The afternoon sessions addressed food defense and safety, the future use of RFID in cattle for traceability, automation, and agriculture’s future trends and technology. Drones were included in the discussions related to farms and automation, as a growing number of drone uses are being found on larger farms and operations.
Randy Treadwell who manages the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Rapid Response Team and Emergency Management detailed what the state response would be to address cross, livestock, and food incidents from natural accidents and disasters, to unintentional or international acts of contamination or adulteration.
Joe Zaccaria, CFDC a Certified Food Defense Coordinator and a Principal of the Enterprise Security Risk Group (eSRG) of ADT|ASG, engaged the audience with definitions of various terms such as Food Security, Food Safety, Food Fraud, and Food Defense. Zaccaria focused his presentation on Food Defense – the intentional adulteration of food products. As Zaccaria recently completed the extensive security review of several wineries in Napa Valley, California and elsewhere, he outlined the challenges that to secure American farms and indeed, global farms and agricultural businesses on vast expanses of lands.
Issues related to:
• Surveillance problems
• Methods of communicating ownership and maintenance – Territorial Reinforcement
• Fail to embark on strategic security planning before crisis incidents
• The inability to leverage appropriate security technology based on design standards
• Not engaging subject matter experts in a proactive manner
• Not fully aware of the domino effect of a Food Defense / Intentional Adulteration incident
The group learned of the availability of powerful tools to aid the important task of situation and community awareness. The audience became aware of the unintended fact that a major criminal act occurring in real time can impact their winery or other food business in a major way, putting their employees and properties at great risk, due to proximity of the incident.
He presented evidence of some very recent cases where food industry workers intentionally contaminated the food they were working around, causing massive recalls of meats and food products from the marketplace. The audience was shocked to learn a major food defense breach occurred just days before the Farm to Fork event, with the recall of products also impacting Washington State.
Many participants were unaware of the fact that although their facilities were registered with the FDA as what appeared to be a formality based on low risk designation in the past, the FDA has been very busy drafting standards, guidance documents and a Food Code that is quickly being adopted by state and local officials. In some cases where local authorities once inspected wineries from time to time, the FDA has now visited some wineries in mid-2017.
Zaccaria presented information from major food industry publications that highlight the ease in which terrorists could contaminate our food supply, impacting thousands, if not millions of unsuspecting US consumers.
While the US appears to have protected itself from mass terrorism related to intentional adulteration of food products, global terrorists have made it clear in their playbooks that this is a potential instrument that their extremist follows can utilize. With food industry business and product expansion, this threat grows more acute by the day.
Should domestic or international terrorists target the US food supply, it is certain that voluntary FDA guidance, could quickly become mandatory requirements under law, with serious fines and criminal charges for food companies and executives that fail to comply.
Zaccaria pointed out that much of the FDA guidance is reasonable and prudent. Just as the food industry maintains a high standard of product quality, by implementing rigorous food safety and Good Manufacturing Processes (GMPs), so should comprehensive Food Defense assessments and mitigation strategies be adopted to ensure brand, product and market confidence for many years to come.