Food Defense Plans: the Basics
What is a Food Defense Plan?
According to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), food defense “focuses on protecting the food supply from intentional contamination, with a variety of chemicals, biological agents, or other harmful substances by people who want to do us harm.” A food defense plan (FDP) “can increase your preparedness and response to an emergency” and “provide protection to your customers, employees, brand name, and company reputation.”
As of March 2010, federally inspected processing establishments are not required, only encouraged, to adopt an FDP. However, if FSIS does not soon reach its goal of 90% compliance (90% of all establishments having an FDP in place), the agency may make FDP adoption mandatory.
FSIS Model Food Defense Plan
FSIS provides a model Food Defense Plan to help you write a plan for your MSU or plant.
One Mobile Unit’s Experience with a Food Defense Plan
The Island Grown Farmers Cooperative (IGFC) adopted a Food Defense Plan and found the process simple and straightforward. The FSIS model is not specific to MSUs, but that didn’t matter.
“You don’t have to use everything in their model,” explains Barbara Thomas, IGFC HACCP Coordinator. “You just have to look at all the suggestions and implement the ones that make sense for your plant. I just read through the model plan, talked it over with the MSU manager and our inspector, and figured out what was appropriate for us.”
For example, some parts of the FSIS model were really only necessary for a large plant, such as ID tags for employees. The IGFC staff is so small, everyone knows everyone else.
The only major change IGFC made was to rekey. They had been operating for 10 years, and there were a lot of keys out there, among staff, board, and members. “So we collected all the keys, had the locks rekeyed, and got new keys made. And now we control them better.”
Bottom line advice: read through the FSIS model FDP, talk it over with the MSU manager and inspector, and decide what elements of the model are appropriate for your MSU.