News associated with episodes of food contamination appears in the media on a regular basis. These episodes generate great uncertainty and concern among consumers, affecting their confidence in the consumption of a certain product, regardless of the brand or origin.
Historically, the concern of food processors has always been to avoid the accidental contamination of their products. In this field, the objective of food safety is to ensure that food is harmless and healthy for the consumer. To assess the scale of the problem, in the USA, using FoodNet data (1996-1998), the Center for Disease, Control and Prevention has estimated that over 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalized and 5,000 deaths per year are caused by the unintentional contaminations of food.
And if this were not enough, a new concern has recently arisen among the food processors, associated with the possible deliberate contamination with the intention of causing harm both to the consumers and the organization itself.
Faced with these situations, the term food defense has emerged, encompassing the activities associated with protecting the supply of food against intentional or deliberate acts of contamination.
When we speak about food defense, we have to take into account a series of characteristics that make it especially difficult to control:
- The unpredictability, associated with its intentional and malicious nature;
- The possible presence of all types of contaminants (physical, chemical, biological and even radioactive agents);
- Random occurrence;
- High potential damage.
The cases of intentional or malicious contamination that can affect the general population tend to lead us to reflect about the vulnerability and the ease with which an attack can take place.
So, the business organizations must be prepared to act in this area, by means of adopting food defense plans, which enable:
- Preventing intentional attacks and/or mitigating their effects;
- Responding rapidly and effectively, if necessary;
- Protecting the company and its workers;
- Maintaining the harmlessness in the product manufacturing;
- Regaining the trust of the consumers following an act of deliberate contamination.
The drafting of a defense plan in an organization implies:
- Analyzing the risks and evaluating the associated risks
- Identifying the vulnerabilities and determining the monitoring measures
- Implementation, in which the involvement of the workers is most important.
A food defense plan cannot be implemented from one day to the next, as it involves meticulous work and teamwork that requires a significant dedication and the support and involvement of the entire business structure.
Once it has been drafted, one of the key points in the appropriate implementation of a defense plan lies in training all the workers of the organization.
At PrevenControl, we have designed an e-learning course in which the basic concepts of food defense are explained clearly and concisely and the sections that must be contemplated in the defense plan are analyzed. Here you can see a small sample of our course:
The implementation and effectiveness of the defense plan depends on the involvement of the employees. If the workers are informed and alert, it is more likely that we will be able to respond adequately in the event that signs of intentional contamination are detected.
An example in this sense is the awareness campaign focused on workers launched by the American FDA, under the slogan that the workers are the companies’ FIRST line of defense. Here is the campaign video:
PrevenControl es la firma especializada en seguridad y salud laboral que propone soluciones eficaces e innovadoras para la mejora del negocio y la reputación de sus clientes a través de la consultoría, el uso de la tecnología y la formación.