Food Security and Fraud

Food Security and Fraud

May 29 , 2019

Notes from the CEO’s brain:

Today I finally dug in and conducted our annual Food Security Self Assessment for Gem City Fine Foods. This is part of our SQF (Safe Quality Food) certification, and our commitment to maintaining high food safety standards. The topic of food security and fraud is fascinating, so while I pretend to roll my eyes at the paperwork, I do enjoy keeping up on the news (think plastic pellets in rice, much like e. coli in melons.)

We maintain a Food Security, Defense and Fraud plan that is part of our overall food safety programming, and every year we conduct a Threat and Vulnerability Assessment as well as administering the checklist to make sure we’re still doing what we should be to prevent tampering from within or without of the food that ultimately reaches the consumer’s plate.

According to the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), food fraud is economically motivated adulterating of a food product, and the related hazards. An example from the top 6 most likely foods to be subject to fraud, is the thinning of olive oil with water. Innocuous enough, and the seller’s economic motivation clear: same profit on less olive oil. Fish is reportedly the most often faked food, with species mislabeled- ie. sell a cheap filet at a pricey filet price. Food fraud can be dangerous though, as in the 2002 case in which a snack bar owner in China put rat poison in a rival business’s food.

Bio-terrorism also falls under food security, defense and fraud programming. Bio-terrorism is the use of biologic agents or toxins on civilians to coerce political or social objectives, as in the 1984 case of a religious sect in Oregon contaminating salad bars in restaurants with salmonella to disrupt local elections. See? Fascinating stuff- but scary.

We don’t worry too much about either inside or outside tampering with the ingredients or final products handled at our bakery, but we remain vigilant. At this time we are a small enough facility and employee team that we know each other and most of the people who come through the door for deliveries, pick ups, and other business. But we train every employee in our program, and refresh annually. While cameras monitor the grounds, employees keep their eyes open for suspicious behavior as well. We inspect and log incoming shipments and test them and our finished products periodically, as part of the traceability chain. A bag of dry ingredients that is broken when it comes off the truck is not allowed into the facility, for instance. And annually we conduct an assessment online, answering many questions with levels of certainty attached, to gauge our vulnerability to fraud, based on motivation, economics, and other inside and outside factors.

Some people might think it’s overkill, but it takes just one instance… and depending on where in the food supply chain, can have devastating consequences.

Speaking of food security, we hear much these days about food security- or insecurity- related to the availability of food to people around the country. Political, economic and social circumstances certainly drive why some in the United States go hungry. Since I have the floor here, I’d like to draw attention to the news article below that crossed my desk today, and to thank the Governor of my home state for pushing for a plan to end food insecurity there by 2030. It’s a giant task, but a goal we all should be working toward, in our cities and towns, states, and in the country as a whole.

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/maine/articles/2019-05-28/maine-to-draw-up-plan-to-eliminate-food-insecurity-by-2030

Respectfully committed to your safe enjoyment of our desserts,

Lisa


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