Mark Allen, president and CEO of the International Food Service Distributors Association, Falls Church, VA, says, “IFDA and our foodservice distributor members have worked together with government agencies to improve communication between the industry, regulators and law enforcement and to address terrorist-related security concerns. In light of this new threat, distributors have taken a number of steps in physical plant security and tightening access to facilities and trucks. Simpler steps include improved delivery driver identification for the customer’s benefit.”
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, Washington, has served its members since 2001 by providing them information on protecting their facilities, improving security procedures and keeping current with the latest bioterrorism regulations from the government. Part of the effort has been an initiative called Project Vigilance, which allows companies to share with other members what they have done to upgrade security.
Focus On Best Practices
The actions of one of GMA’s members provide a snapshot of how responsible food companies are preparing themselves to deter possible acts of agroterrorism. The focus on security at Land O’Lakes is solid and steadily improving in the areas of policy, process and prevention.
“As a food company, we have always taken our food safety responsibility seriously all the way through our supply chain,” says Pat Johnson, manager of logistics at the Arden Mills, MN-based dairy company. “But the emphasis has shifted a little from temperature control, preventing theft and ensuring wholesomeness to eliminating the possibility of unauthorized access to our products.”
Johnson declined to reveal specific supply chain security initiatives, but the company has examined its processes end to end and spent significant time and money in the plants, warehouses and transportation areas to ensure maximum protection. Carriers are required to padlock all loads and truck seals have been upgraded from a “foil” unit to a one-use cable seal, which is more expensive but much more difficult to remove.
“We are actively looking for and evaluating shipper ‘best practices’ on an ongoing basis and will continue to look for ways to make our supply chain more secure,” he says.
That’s a good idea because of the nature of the food supply chain, according to Brandman, the safety consultant.
“There are a number of vulnerabilities,” he says. “All you need to do is take apart the supply chain and look at the flow of product and the number of entities that handle the goods” from the manufacturing plant to the supermarket shelf. “Product is going to be exposed. There’s no way that you can put food in a bubble from the time that it comes out of the ground or a processing facility to the time that it goes into a consumer’s shopping bag. And that’s not going to change.”