Food Defence

The concept of Food Defence is relatively new and arose following the terror attacks in USA on 11 September 2001. A year later the USA had passed the Homeland Security Act. By the end of 2003 food and agriculture had been identified as critical infrastructure and therefore needed to be protected. The culmination of further developments was the issue of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in January 2011.

What is Food Defence?

Food defence is the protection of food products from intentional contamination or adulteration by biological, chemical, physical, or radiological agents.  Along with protecting the food system, food defence also deals with prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery from intentional acts of adulteration.  By contrast food safety is the accidental contamination of food. The last term which can be confusing is food security, which deals with individuals having reliable access to sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. Since food is traded globally to such an extent, the American principles are now being used increasingly in other parts of the world. Also with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and benchmarking of food safety management systems, food defence is now being incorporated in most food safety management systems.

Food Defence in South Africa

Food defence, biovigilance and bioterrorism is listed as item 18 in the contents of ISO/TS  22002-1:2009. This technical specification on PRP’s means a food manufacturing facility is required to have a programme in place but very little detail is documented in the standard.  If South African companies want to achieve certification on one of the GFSI schemes such as FSSC 22000 or BRC then a Food Defence Policy and action plan will be required.

Food Defence Training

Foodpath has had numerous requests for training in Food Defence, mostly from multi-national companies wanting to meet the requirements highlighted above. Since the USA is the home of food defence, the ALERT programme developed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) forms the core of training in Food Defence. This training module also highlights Food Fraud and Food Crimes which can and have occurred. Food Defence is usually presented as one module in annual refresher training.  Other food safety topics suitable for refresher training may be Microbiology, Allergens, ISO 22000 or Introduction to GFSI. Food Defence could also be presented to management groups or at an annual technical conference.