Ben Adams, Jr.

The ACS Food Defense Plan

When signed into law by President Barack Obama on Jan. 4, 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was so massive in scope and so broad and deep in its regulatory reach, it wasn’t practical or even possible to roll out all of its mandates at one time. Instead, the timetable for review, implementation, and enforcement of thousands of new federal rules was established to happen in stages.

The latest FSMA element getting the attention of any business in the food supply chain — from production, to shipping, to storage, and to final delivery to the customer —is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) final rule dealing with “malicious contamination” or “intentional adulteration” of food, with the intent to do public harm.

You might recall from previous columns here that the FSMA represented the greatest change in U.S. food regulations since 1938, when the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was passed. The FSMA is an amendment to the 1938 act. Among many other things, it required early on that all food facilities registered with the FDA implement a written food safety plan with specific key elements. The matter of “malicious contamination” falls into a separate FSMA arena all together — food defense.

Food defense is not the same as food safety. Food safety addresses accidental and unintentional contamination and focuses on biological, chemical, or physical hazards. Food defense involves establishing and implementing measures that minimize the risk of the food supply becoming intentionally contaminated. Food defense is putting into place preventive procedures and practices to keep malicious people from using a variety of chemicals, biological agents, or other harmful substances to contaminate food, so as to kill others, disrupt the economy, or ruin a business.

Who might want to intentionally contaminate a food product? It might be a former employee. It might be members of activist/terrorist groups posing as temporary employees, contractors, truck drivers, visitors, or utility representatives. It might be unauthorized intruders with criminal or sociopathic intent. It might even be internal employees or insiders who know how to bypass security controls and intend to cause harm.

Here at Adams Cold Storage (ACS), we’ve had a comprehensive and highly detailed Food Defense Plan on a voluntary basis for several years, but what once was a voluntary best practice for us and others in the public refrigerated warehousing industry now has become mandatory — federal policy as a result of the FSMA. Knowing that the FSMA Intentional Adulteration Final Rule eventually would be in the schedule for enforcement, we put our ACS Food Defense Plan up for review by FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors two years ago, and we came through with flying colors.

Key elements of the 12-page ACS Food Defense Plan (Security Measures for Food Defense), last reviewed and revised May 3, 2018, address four primary areas: Outside/External Security; Inside/Interior Security; Shipping and Receiving Security; and Personnel and Mail Handling Security. The overall goals of the plan are:

 – To prevent unauthorized access by people or entry of unapproved materials to the facility.

 – To protect products from intentional contamination throughout the production process.

 – To ensure that only authorized personnel are in the facility at any time.

 – To respond quickly to a product contamination threat or event using planned and practiced measures.

The ACS Food Defense Plan is another important part of our commitment to maintain a safe working environment and to protect our customers, the consumers of the products we keep under cold storage, and our business.

This column is sponsored by Adams Cold Storage, LLC.

BIO: Ben Adams, Jr., is an owner and president of president of Adams Cold Storage, LLC, in Auburndale. He has been directly involved in citrus production, warehousing and distribution, as well as state and community support, since 1980. His facility incorporates some 250,000 square feet of multitemperature warehousing, and is AA rated by BRC-International.

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