Food Protection Top of Mind

Joe Zaccaria, CFDC, is a Principal with the Enterprise Security Risk Group and a Senior Fellow of the Center of Excellence - Homeland Security Emergency Management

Joe Zaccaria, CFDC, is a Principal with the Enterprise Security Risk Group and a Senior Fellow of the Center of Excellence - Homeland Security Emergency Management

Fear of terrorists using shipments of rock lobsters and other famous food exports have cause the Australian government to implement heightened security measures on their food industry. The food and logistics companies fear delays, spoilage, and major bottlenecks, as they rush to ship live seafood products globally.

Security upgrades at food plants may expedite the process. The government suggests that AUS$400 per employee background checks will also strengthen industry security. It looks like background check companies with a process and access within the privacy laws, could potentially reduce the cost of these background checks? I think we can all agree that background screening is a good thing, and should be a foundational element of any security program. But almost US$ 300 per employee seems a bit excessive. The x-ray machine business is apparently booming in Australia these days.

Reading between the lines, I feel the Australian government may have some credible threat data. It is no secret that following the 9/11 attacks, US and allied forces discovered terrorist playbooks that detailed the use of the food production and logistics chain to introduce pathogens. This led to the US Bioterrorism Act, and eventually the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). It appears the Australian government has a greater concern with explosives making their way onto aircraft, and the potential vulnerabilities that may exist in the export process and fresh goods rush to market.

Whatever the specific government concern, our food supply is potentially very vulnerable at many stages of growth, harvesting, processing, production, and transport. Performing detailed Food Defense Vulnerability Assessments are an important first step in the food protection process, as the US FDA promotes, and now requires under FSMA.

A qualified food defense assessor will be wise to capitalize on the investments a company has already made in their food safety programs, focusing on key production processes that present vulnerabilities to intentional adulteration (IA). Apart from those companies that are specifically required to comply with FSMA IA rules, these rules certainly serve as best practices for other firms who handle food in their daily businesses. Even if one currently complies with local, state, USDA, and other requirements, other IA perspectives could prove to be very valuable to the business at times when known threats my surface, as they do from time to time.

ABC Rural has a long history of delivering specialist coverage of the business, the politics and the innovation of primary production in Australia and overseas. You can read the article that Joe Zaccaria is referencing here