Protecting the Food Supply Outside the Walls

Over the past several years, there has been an interesting shift in the types of goods stolen. According to data from FreightWatch International, in 2007, electronics were the top product stolen, but for the last three consecutive years, food and beverage products have risen to the top of the list of most stolen goods. Unlike electronics, these products are less risky items to resell because they are more difficult to track. Without the serialization common to electronics forentification purposes, food and beverage products are easy targets for criminals. Since these stolen goods are easier to resell into legitimate channels, thieves can receive as much as $0.70 on the dollar versus just $0.30 for electronics. However, in addition to theft, food products also are vulnerable to adulteration, which significantly raises the risks for every stakeholder in the food supply chain.

Food Safety & Brand Protection 

In a 2013 DomPrep Food Defense survey of 600 respondents from various industries, public health organizations, and first responder agencies, as well as federal, state, and local government agencies, 58 percent of the respondents believe the U.S. food supply is very vulnerable to the threat of intentional contamination. In order to protect this vast food supply chain, each stakeholder must have a proactive food protection plan that clearly defines their roles in the prevention, detection, and response to an adulteration event, and work together to share information, communicate, and coordinate efforts as food moves from farm to fork.

Companies must monitor the safety of food products from both inside and outside the walls of their facilities. As an attack can happen anywhere in the chain, from anybody in the chain, including their own employees, companies are responsible for controlling how food is handled, being aware of who are making the pickups and deliveries, and monitoring shipments once they leave the companies’ gates. In fact, according to the same DomPrep survey, intentional food adulteration from disgruntled employees ranked as the most likely threat – far above terrorism and criminals.

What happens outside of a company’s facilities, when a shipment of products leaves a facility, is still the company’s concern. If something goes wrong with this shipment, the company’s brand is at stake. Criminals often are not concerned with how they handle the products; they are concerned about simply moving and reselling the stolen goods. If a shipment is not properly refrigerated or sanitized, the stolen food could be unsafe to ingest by the consumer – and if a consumer gets sick, the blame falls on the brand. Moreover, there are additional costs associated with product loss, including potential recall costs, litigation costs, and impact to future revenue and market value. The best way to avoid added financial costs and a tainted brand reputation is to stop cargo theft before it happens by building a proactive food defense program – and that starts with the Four “A”s of actionable food defense: assess, access, alert, and audit.

The Four Steps of Food Defense 

The first step is to assess the risks within the whole supply chain, which starts by conducting a vulnerability assessment of critical control points. This includes not only the actions happening internally at a facility, but the entire supply chain including the transportation of goods.

The second step is to consider which contractors, visitors, and even employees have access to critical control points or specific areas where only the employees doing their job should be able to access. By allowing only authorized staff access to critical control points, a company is able to better protect sensitive areas such as mixing, ingredient handling, and liquid receiving, storage, and handling that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has deemed most vulnerable to intentional adulteration.

The third step is to continuously monitor the entire supply chain and alert appropriate authorities of intentional and unintentional instances of food adulteration. There are multiple ways for cargo thieves to access products – from deceptive pickups to in-transit cargo theft. By implementing strict, multi-layered security processes and advanced technologies such asentification verification as well as truck and trailer security and control solutions, many of these thefts are preventable.

The fourth step is to determine operational and regulatory compliance to best food defense practices and provide documentation of compliance to regulators. The Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law on 4 January 2011, promotes the safety of the U.S. food supply by focusing on prevention, rather than a reactive response. However, prevention is only as effective as the actual compliance to the processes that are in place. Regular, random auditing using remote video auditing technology can go a long way to ensuring that the preventive actions are, in fact, in place and working.

Implementing preventive controls built on actionable intelligence to protect the food supply chain is much more effective than reacting to an event after it happens. The Four “A”s of a proactive food defense program deliver comprehensive monitoring and control over the integrity of a company’s supply chain to combat intentional food adulteration. It is a new year, which is a good time for companies and other stakeholders to build a proactive food defense program.

Don Hsieh

Don Hsieh is the director of commercial and industrial marketing at Tyco Integrated Security. He is responsible for developing and driving the go-to-market strategy for a broad spectrum of vertical markets including food and beverage manufacturing and distribution, restaurants, and food service, which make up Tyco’s Food Defense initiative, as well as key market segments such as manufacturing, wholesale, telecommunications, and service industries. Before joining Tyco, he spent more than 20 years in the hi-tech industry leading the development of multiple vertical markets and channels of distribution to accelerate growth at top-tier technology firms such as Hewlett-Packard, NCR, and Konica Minolta.



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