In January during my visit to Two Rivers Cooperative, general manager Tracy Gatham mentioned the cooperative’s partnership with local law enforcement to combat methamphetamine production in rural Iowa. In addition to securing the perimeter with basic security measures, the cooperative, in conjunction with Iowa’s “Stop Meth” program, began the practice of adding calcium nitrate to its anhydrous ammonia tanks, a method that creates a “chemical lock” to render the ammonia useless to meth cooks.
Admittedly, this was the first time I had heard of this problem/solution since everything I know about this sort of illicit production I learned from the AMC series, “Breaking Bad.” Ultimately, this conversation got me thinking about facility security.
Since the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requires all companies servicing the food chain to develop a food safety plan a la FSMA, Section 103, I decided it was an appropriate time do delve into strategies for critically analyzing and mitigating internal and external security threats.
If your agribusiness is considering revisiting its security policies, Don Hsieh, director of commercial and industrial marketing with Tyco Integrated Security Food Defense, suggests you begin taking a proactive approach to food defense by identifying and securing the most vulnerable portions of the operation:
1) Coating, mixing, grinding, rework areas: These steps in any process can result in the even distribution of a contaminant and can cause greater damage rather than an isolated batch or load;
2) Ingredients staging: A stage in the process that provides access to the production stream;
3) Bulk liquid receiving and loading: There is a high probability of uniform mixing and distribution of a contaminant;
4) Bulk liquid storage or nonbulk liquid holding: Tanks tend to be kept in isolated areas, allowing for easy access for adulteration.
Next, consider the ways a disgruntled employee or perpetrator could gain access to these sensitive areas by evaluating your authorization procedures and how consistency those policies are enforced.
If security is breached or an incident does occur, how will management or staff be notified of the problem? An alert system is a crucial third step in this evaluation process.
“Anytime there is an incident, the faster the response to the incident, the quicker the recovery,” Hsieh says, noting that alerts range from testing to virtual products like cameras or the use of RFID technology.
The final step is to audit the security measures the company has implemented so management doesn’t just believe the facility is secure, it knows it is.
While the specifics of facility security relies heavily on the need of the site itself, starting with the basics is the best way to protect your business, your customers and the food supply.