As a leading manufacturer of tamper evident security seals and solutions, following the online conversation among industry stake holders discussing food defense and the risks associated with intentional contamination of the food chain, raises concern, or at least questions.
As food manufacturers- and processors move through their individual food chain vulnerability studies, the consensus appears to be that investing in the mitigation of all risk that is “within arm’s reach” is warranted. Such investments are typically associated with perimeter defense, access control, video surveillance and employee background screening.
These investments are all necessary for what is, ideally, a multi-layered approach to food defense, but understanding that areas vulnerable to intentional contamination are not limited to brick and mortar facilities, how do we go about protecting the entire logistic chain?
The FDA has conducted studies that identify 4 key activities to have greater vulnerability in the food chain:
• Bulk liquid receiving and loading
• Liquid storage and handling
• Secondary ingredient handling
• Mixing and similar activities
In addition to these activities being the most vulnerable to intentional contamination, these are also activities that often define the “chain of custody and liability” in the food chain, i.e. as one liquid ingredient is pumped into a pre-manufacturing storage container at a food plant, the ownership and responsibility of the ingredient changes.
The above four activities are considered the most vulnerable, however, whenever a food ingredient- or product is transported, it is vulnerable to intentional contamination. Yes, food manufacturers test ingredients for different types of contamination, but they cannot test for everything.
Therefore, it is imperative that the chain of custody within the food chain is protected through a multi-layered cargo security protocol. Physical protection through use of QUALITY security seals combined with a well implemented security seal program, should be a part of this.
A QUALITY security seal, is a seal that offers the appropriate breaking strength, it will be tamper resistant and will provide indication of tampering.
Often, a security seal, is the “last point of defense” in a food company’s chain of custody, typically at a cost less than $ 1.00.
A word of caution. All security seals are not created equal. There can be a tremendous difference in the quality of security seals ranging from one manufacturer to the next.
The challenge for the individual that purchases security seals, is to become somewhat educated so that he or she can choose the right security seal solution.
The perception among buyers of security seals often is: “A seal is a seal”…..Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is no escaping it. Seal buyers need to apply common sense and evaluate the security seals themselves. Use common sense. Ask industry experts. Ask the seal manufacturer for their own “tamper test results” for specific seals. Too often security seals are chosen without any regard for what matters most:
• Tamper indicating features
• Tamper resistance
• Quality & strength
• Compliance with ISO 17712:2013, C-TPAT and PIP.
In addition to choosing the appropriate security seal solution for your supply chain, it is important to realize that security seals are not really effective, unless they are part of an established security seal protocol.
Paraphrasing from “FSIS Safety and Security Guidelines for the Transportation and Distribution of Meat, Poultry and Egg products”:
“Any risk mitigation strategy has to include a well-defined supply chain security program, and a supply chain security program has to include established best practices on how to”:
• Train specific employees, “gate keepers”, in the purchase, storage, release,
application and inspection of security seals and other tamper evident devices.
This includes, but is not limited to, a list of actionable steps to follow, in cases
where a “tamper incident” is discovered.
• Let the appropriate and skilled employees determine what features and
capabilities a specific security seal must provide to your logistic chain, and
realize that not all security seals are created equal. Consult the experts, learn
from them – A seal is NOT just a seal!
• Ensure compliance. Seek information and knowledge from established and
reputable security seal manufacturers and the industry organizations you
Soren Lund, Vice President Sales