KANSAS CITY — The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has put food safety regulations at the forefront of the baking industry’s mind for a while now. In some ways, the law simply confirmed what the baking industry was already doing and made it law. In others, FSMA challenged the industry and changed the way the government and its agencies approach food security altogether.
Protecting food against contamination is one of those areas in which FSMA redefines how bakeries must approach security. Section 106, Protection Against Intentional Adulteration, deals with the threat of someone intentionally causing harm by attacking the U.S. food system. Under this section, bakeries and other food manufacturers are required to develop a food defense plan to prevent such attacks from happening.
“In today’s world, this is a huge problem that everyone needs to address,” said Greg Carr, project planner of baking and snack for The Austin Co. “We read every day about what people are trying to do. They want to cause panic and disruption, and all they have to do is contaminate some flour.”
Before writing off terrorism as something that will never happen to a facility, consider other threats that could become very real very quickly.
“It doesn’t have to be a terrorist,” said Len Heflich, president of Innovation for Success. “It could be a disgruntled employee or someone who wants to play a prank.”
Bakeries could be especially vulnerable because of the nature of the product.
“From our perspective, fresh products from a bakery are high risk because they are distributed daily,” Mr. Carr said. “That bread can be among millions of people, and some of them will be consumed within 24 hours of being produced.”
That leaves the window for recalls small and shrinking, as anyone who has ever conducted one for accidental adulteration knows.
This section of the law, due to go into effect for large companies July 26, 2019, requires bakeries to think beyond accidental adulteration and look at their plants’ weak points and address them. This doesn’t have to be overwhelming, though.
“The emphasis here needs to be on keeping it simple,” Mr. Heflich said. “Don’t overcomplicate this and think it means you need to install fences and cameras and security guards. It doesn’t require any of those things. It requires that you consider potential risks, and if you can do something about them, reduce or manage them, you do it.”