9/11 kicked off a new era for security across the world. The U.S. even became the first and only country to create food defense regulations, protecting food supply chains from intentional and malicious adulteration.

Not much has changed for food defense laws since the turn of the millennium — but food defense is becoming increasingly important as the decade unfolds. Here’s why food and beverage manufacturers need to strengthen their food defense programs in 2023.

Defining Food Defense

A food defense plan is the set of security measures that prevent acts of intentional harm at a food and beverage manufacturing site. Though it’s rare for bad actors to intentionally contaminate food, it can be just as costly as a food safety issue as manufacturers may have to pay for and execute a product recall and take corrective action.

Additionally, given the potential for public harm, a food defense breach is likely to generate substantial media coverage, which can devastate a brand’s reputation. Food and beverage companies cannot afford to ignore food defense investment.

The Importance of Food Defense in 2023

Here are four reasons food and beverage manufacturers need to bolster their defense plans in the new year:

  • Mitigates unexpected risks. Overseas conflict, inflation, and political unrest are destabilizing the global supply chain. While there is no evidence this is leading to an increase in intentional food adulteration, bad actors are more aggressive in times of disruption. Implementing a new food defense program, or fortifying an existing strategy, could shield your organization from attack. Spending on security upfront costs less than resolving an attack after the fact.
  • Dissuades security breaches. In times of disruption and social unrest, random break-ins and vandalism are more common, even if perpetrators are not intentionally targeting food manufacturers. If your facility is breached, you need to conduct an investigation to ensure your products weren’t affected. Investing in security measures preemptively can stop incidents like these from happening.
  • Complies with future regulations. Currently, the scope of food defense regulations is limited, but that could change in an instant if there’s an attack here or abroad. Future-proof your operations by complying with both FDA regulations and voluntary measures now. Your operation will be less impacted by tighter regulations, while competitors race to catch up.
  • Protects profits. In the 2020s, food and beverage manufacturers face an unusually competitive market. Preventing intentional adulteration is one of the best ways to safeguard hard-won profits. The average food recall now costs manufacturers an average of $10 million, but it can be much higher for large companies. JM Smuckers estimates they could lose as much as $125 million more than they’ve already spent on an April 2022 recall.
  • Preserves reputation. The media avoids reporting on intentional attacks on the food supply chain to prevent copycat crimes. Stories that do make the news have an outsized impact on the public’s perception of a manufacturer. Investing in an effective food defense plan is critical to protecting your company’s reputation.

Implementing a new food defense plan or improving your existing strategies can be challenging, but essential to mitigate risks for the coming decade. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone.

AIB International regularly releases new information about the latest food defense strategies. Sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop. Want to take immediate action? AIB International’s comprehensive food defense evaluation audit will identify potential vulnerabilities to your facility and current strategy. Additional intentional adulteration training can prepare your team to identify risks, spot contamination, and react in the benefit of public safety.

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