What is Food Defense and TACCP?
Food defense and TACCP consider measures implemented by food companies to protect the food against intentional contamination by individuals normally motivated by hatred, an ideology, disagreement, or any other malicious intent. Organizations, therefore, implement a Threat Assessment Critical Control Point (TACCP), which is a risk assessment that is intended to ensure food is protected from deliberate contamination. The organization would identify key points that are most vulnerable to contamination and put in risk mitigation strategies to minimize the risk of product contamination.
Why Food Defense and TACCP Are Important?
Over the past years, there have been reported cases of intentional contamination of food by either disgruntled employees, contractors, mentally unstable persons, and competitors. Such incidents, usually motivated by malice, have pressured food handling organizations to tighten controls to ensure consumer safety. This is because the integrity of a business lies in the measures it takes to ensure the product meets the expectations of consumers, customers, and interested parties. If product safety and legality are compromised, this can lead to a loss in product integrity, consumer confidence, and could threaten general Public Health.
Food Defense Plan or TACCP
As a requirement by most food safety standards, a food manufacturing company should have a food defense plan or a TACCP. To ensure companies have an effective food defense plan, a threat vulnerability assessment should be carried out first to identify all the potential threats to product safety and general production processes. The threat assessment considers all the intentional food contamination threats and their likelihood to affect the safety of a product. Once an assessment has been carried out, then a company can implement mitigation strategies and procedures for threats identified. The threat assessment should cover all supply chains from suppliers of raw material to consumers.
It is important that mitigation plans and procedures are communicated to all employees from top management to frontline employees who work directly with food. Mitigation plans, procedures, and policies should be followed at all times and not be overlooked and all employees should receive training where necessary.
Depending on the vulnerability of a company to a certain threat, various mitigation strategies can include:
- Inspections of tampering on products by the appointed safety team
- Facility security measures e.g. manned gates
- Access codes, locks, and electronic card keys
- Access restriction and use of portable electronic devices
- Whistle-blowing arrangements
- Pre-employment checks
- Training interventions
Cultivating a positive food safety culture in a company where employees are able to recognize and respect their roles in food defense by following all measures in place and reporting anything that is out of the ordinary is perhaps the best mitigation strategy a company can implement.
Most organizations use the FDA Food Defense Plan as a form of risk assessment to determine the strength of their food defense system among other risk assessments. There are however various tools that can be used. A facility may also elect to formulate its own risk assessment based on what is best suitable for it.
Intentional food contamination can have a negative impact on a company and the public in general. It can cost a company its reputation and loss in public confidence, and consumer health may also be put at risk. When a company implements an effective and fully implemented food defense plan, it can save money from potential product recalls, legal fines, and consumer lawsuits. Having a food defense plan also ensures compliance to legislative and food safety standard requirements and most importantly customer requirements, which ultimately can strengthen the company’s brand reputation.