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Food Defense and Security Seals

Food Defense and the Need for Quality and Compliance in Tamper Evident Security Seals.

As a prominent manufacturer of tamper evident security seals and solutions, following the blogs and focus groups on Linkedin, who are discussing Food Defense and the risks associated with intentional contamination of the food chain, raises concerns, or at least serious questions.

As food manufacturers- and processors move through their individual food chain vulnerability studies, the consensus appears to be that focusing on, and investing in, the mitigation of all risk that is “within arm’s reach”, is warranted and justifiable.  Such warranted investments are typically associated with perimeter defense, access control, video surveillance and employee screening.

These investments are all important and necessary as part of what is, ideally, a multi-layered approach to Food Defense, but the food chain is much wider than the perimeter of one single manufacturing location. There are other areas of the food chain that are significantly more vulnerable to intentional contamination, as concluded by the FDA:

The FDA has conducted studies that identify 4 key activities to have greater vulnerability in the food chain:

  • ---->   Bulk liquid receiving and loading
  • ---->   Liquid storage and handling
  • ---->   Secondary ingredient handling, and
  • ---->   Mixing and similar activities

  

In addition to the fact that these are activities deemed most vulnerable to intentional contamination, these are also, for the most part, activities that define the “chain of custody and liability” in the food chain, i.e. as one liquid is pumped from a bulk truck into a pre-manufacturing bulk storage unit at the food plant, the ownership and responsibility of the product changes.

The above four activities are considered the most vulnerable, but generally speaking, whenever a food product is being transported, it is also vulnerable to intentional contamination.

Therefore, it is imperative that the “chain of custody” of the food chain is protected by high quality security seals that provide real security value, by offering a high degree of “tamper resistance” and tamper indication features.

The argument is this: A seal is NOT just a seal.

The “last point of defense” in a food company’s   chain of custody - is a mechanical security seal…typically acquired for much less than $ 1.00 each.

Security seals are used to secure dome lids and discharge valves on tank trailers, trailer doors on truck trailers and rail cars, and of course ocean container doors. Good security seals provide clear signs of tampering, will resist a wide variety of tamper attempts, and are of consistent quality.

 

                

 

The challenge for the seal buyers is to seek education on security seals, and then choose the right security seal for their firm.  This is important, and requires thorough attention.

The perception among buyers of security seals often is this: “A seal is a seal”.  Well established manufacturers of highly valuable brands of food products will invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in perimeter defense, video surveillance etc., but when it comes to defining the classification or quality of security seals that will be used to secure one of the most vulnerable part of their entire supply chain, will consistently pick “cheaper” over “better”…..Why is this?

There are of course examples of companies that are serious about their application and choice of security seals, and who have implemented security seal requirements and specifications as an integral part of their overall supply chain security program, alas, these examples are the minority.

Because mechanical security seals are such a quaint category of products, the responsibility to purchase them often defaults to a firm’s purchasing department, and because the expense is insignificant, the decision on what security seals to purchase is often made by the same person that orders office supplies for the firm, with little or no regard to what really matters:

  • ----> Tamper indicating features
  • ----> Tamper resistance
  • ----> Quality
  • ----> Compliance with ISO 17712, C-TPAT, PIP, WCO

 

In addition to choosing the appropriate security seal solution for your supply chain, it is important to realize that security seals are not effective unless they are part of an established seal protocol;

Paraphrasing from “FSIS Safety and Security Guidelines for the Transportation and Distribution of Meat, Poultry, and Egg products”:

Any risk mitigation strategy has to include a well-defined supply chain security program, and a SC-security program has to include established best practices on how to:

 ----> Train specific employees, “gate keepers”,  in the purchase, storage, release, application and inspection of             security seals and other tamper evident devices. This includes, but is not limited to, a list of actionable steps to follow, in cases where a “tamper incident” is discovered.

 ----> Let the appropriate and skilled employees of the firm determine what features and capabilities a security seal must offer to your supply chain operations, and realize that not all security seals are created equal.  Consult the experts, and learn from them - A seal is not  just a seal!

----> Ensure compliance.  Seek information and knowledge from established and reputable security seal manufacturers and industry organizations, such as The International  Seal Manufacturers Association – www.ismasecurity.com

 

Think about this analogy:

All companies regularly update their antivirus software to enjoy protection from virtual viral attacks from the WWW, however, the very same companies put surprisingly little effort towards updating the type and quality of tamper evident protection that would prevent or provide indication of tamper attacks on their supply chain, and potentially mitigate “massive public health harm.”

  

Sincerely,

Soren Lund, VP Sales & Marketing

Mega Fortris Security Seals

www.megafortrisusa.com