Food-borne illnesses were rampant in the start of the 21st century. Tainted food costs the food industry billions of dollars in recalls, lost sales, reputation damage and legal expenses.  To address concerns of accidental and deliberate food contamination, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 was signed into US law by President Barrack Obama on January 4, 2011.  It aims to ensure the food supply is safe by shifting the focus of from responding to contamination to preventing it.  The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has given the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate the way foods are grown, harvested and processed.  The law grants FDA a number of new powers, including mandatory recall authority, which the agency has sought for many years.

The laws and government expectations regarding Food Defense vary from country to country. Food manufacturers and handlers that operate in the United States or that ship into the United States have the most stringent requirements in the world.  Elsewhere laws are less prescriptive.  A good Food Defense program must define a minimum set of standards to meet legal and consumer expectations.

The objectives of a good Food defense program are to protect consumers, products, brands, employees, and other assets by securing facilities that manufacture, process, pack, distribute, or store food to prevent intentional product contamination, diversion, and counterfeiting.  By applying fundamental principles of security and food defense, food manufacturers aim to deter people who seek to harm the company, its products, and those who distribute or consume its foods. Intentionally harmful acts are generally unreasonable and hard to predict. Good security practices reduce the possibility that chemicals, biological agents, or other harmful substances could be used deliberately to compromise product, brand and integrity. A good Food Defense Plan and Procedures define the requirements for systematic management and implementation of procedures to mitigate risks from these threats.

All parts of  a food manufacturing supply chain that manufacture, process, pack, or in any way handle ingredients or final products need to develop specific procedures to secure its products, to deter and prevent intentional contamination and will have protocols in place to quickly and accurately identify, respond to, and contain threats or acts of intentional contamination.  Likewise, Food Defense measures will ensure suppliers also adopt similar protocols and implement appropriate controls.  For a Food Defense program to be robust, food manufacturers must also ensure that their suppliers to do their part in helping to secure their combined portion of the world’s food chain.

A robust Food Defense Program is the best known way of safeguarding food products from intentional harm.  Food manufacturers can all contribute to this effort every day by taking deliberate steps to secure their food chain.  A reputable food manufacturer takes every effort to make delicious, high-quality foods and ensure that consumers never have to wonder, “IS THIS FOOD SAFE TO EAT?”