It wasn't until recently that the issue of food safety came on my radar. Actually, it came precisely with a May visit to the Frito Lay headquarters in Plano, Texas for a media preview tour for the ASIS International conference. During that event I spoke with the security leadership about Frito Lay's effort to secure its supply chain, from farms to factories.
The issue of food safety hit my inbox again this week with U.S. Senate's vote, 73 to 26, to pass S.510 – the Food Safety Modernization Act, a $1.4 billion bill. Basically, the legislation will overhaul of the nation's current food safety regulations, empowering the FDA with oversight of mandatory recalls of potentially contaminated food, requirements for food producers to develop written food safety plans, accessible by the government in case of emergency and implementation of a food tracing system, according to this CNN article. As it stands now, the FDA can only order voluntary food recalls.
Specifically on the security side, the bill would require food producers to develop written food safety plans, that would include hazard analysis and a plan for implementing corrective measures. Also, the Secretary of Health and Human Services would be required to create a food tracing system that would streamline the process of finding the source of contamination, should an outbreak occur.
First of all, I would just like to reiterate how scary it is that there are little to no regulations in place to ensure food production facilities are secure. When Frito Lay began evaluating its security measures after 9/11, what it found was far from ideal:
“We found that half of our manufacturing plants had no perimeter fencing, half had CCTV, of which only half of those were either inoperable or ineffective,” said Peter Hayes, senior group manager, manufacturing operations support and food security, who has been with Frito Lay for 28 years. In addition, only 40 percent of its 30 plants in North America had guard services and few of those had significant presence of guards. Of its 1,800 finished product storage facilities in North America, only half had burglar alarms, one-third had access control systems and the majority had perimeter fencing.
Not only did the corporation add physical security components, but it also began running drills to make sure that if a crisis did occur, managers would know how to respond:
“We create fictitious events and show the process for responding. For example, an explosion happens at one of our plants, how would we respond?” Hayes said. One of the keys to this exercise was to bring in employees who would be directly impacted by this scenario. “It enriched our view of risk when we incorporated our front-line people – that was a terrific find,” he said.
Now that this bill has passed, hopefully it'll ensure that all corporations secure their facilities and have the appropriate measures in place to make sure the food chain is secure. This is certainly a long time coming...