Risk management in the food and drink sector
The supply of food has always been vulnerable to tampering. One of the first recorded events occurred in 1978 when the Arab Revolutionary Army injected oranges grown in Israel with mercury. Four Dutch children complained about the taste of their fruit, and though a nationwide search found only 25 oranges that had been tampered with, the incident proved costly for Israel - exports of oranges plummeted. As recently as September 2018, someone in Australia decided to put sewing needles into strawberries, highlighting how food supply chains are still open to deliberate contamination.
Manufacturing food and drink is big business in the UK. In 2018 the sector contributed 28.8bn to the economy – the sector is bigger than the automotive & aerospace sectors combined. There are over 30 different sub-sectors ranging from bakeries to gin manufacture through to meat processing and animal feed. All these businesses need a robust security strategy to balance safety, reliability and accuracy. But where do business begin to integrate biometrics, and what benefits does it offer?
The food production chain
The food production chain has three stages – agriculture, manufacturing and retailing/catering. Food and drink manufacturing takes place in factories ranging in size from those employing only a few workers to those employing thousands. The HSE’s field of responsibility primarily covers the first two stages in this chain – agriculture and manufacturing. Retailing and catering fall within the responsibility of Local Authority Environmental Health Departments, although HSE works with these departments to ensure some consistency of approach in health and safety issues.
Since the 1990s, early agreements between the HSE and manufacturing industries focused on preventing injuries. Since 2000, the focus has shifted to occupational health issues (such as back injuries, stress, asthma and dermatitis). HSE inspectors visit food and drink factories every year to check on risk assessments. Undertaking risk management assessments are, therefore, a major part of any food or drink manufacturing business.
There are two sides to managing risk:
- the management of risks to employees (slips, trips, falls or serious injury/ death)
- and the management of risks which affect the product (contamination, tampering, terrorism or loss)
Added to this are the inherent risks of protecting high-value assets, such as machinery or raw materials. While there has been a resurgence of small, independent producers, many businesses are multi-site operations with many 1000’s of staff. This means a high volume of footfall and the potential for any number of problems to arise.
Tampering, terrorism and disgruntlement
The supply of food has always been vulnerable to tampering. One of the first recorded events occurred in 1978 when the Arab Revolutionary Army injected oranges grown in Israel with mercury. Four Dutch children complained about the taste of their fruit, and though a nationwide search found only 25 oranges that had been tampered with, the incident proved costly for Israel – exports of oranges plummeted. As recently as September 2018, someone in Australia decided to put sewing needles into strawberries, highlighting how food supply chains are still open to deliberate contamination.
Often food terrorism is perpetrated by disgruntled employees. In the US in 2003 an angry employee in a meat facility mixed insecticide into minced beef. As a result, more than 100 people became ill. In Japan in 2014, another employee of a frozen food company added malathion, an agricultural pesticide, to a wide range of food products over a three-week period. This resulted in more than 2,800 reported cases of food poisoning and the recall of over six million products.
A single incident of food tampering can cost a business dearly. And that’s not a situation that any business wants to find themselves in. Security is therefore of paramount importance. Food production business must consider external and internal access control, as well as control of the finished product as it is distributed from a manufacturing site to its final destination.
Attendance tracking is vital in ensuring protection against food terrorism, protecting the workforce and maintaining control over hygiene. Biometric access control systems can reduce unnecessary administrative burdens, improve employee efficiency and increase accountable protocols; creating a safe and productive environment.
Imagine being able to know with the click of your mouse, who has come onto your site and at what time. That is the security that biometric access control with time and attendance software can offer your business. Furthermore, you always have control over who is allowed access, and at what times. If you run a large site with multiple buildings, you can control who has access to each one – so restricted areas stay that way. With a biometric access control system maintaining a high level of hygiene becomes much easier too.
Accountability and management
Insurance companies have been advising industry leaders to employ biometrics as a sophisticated risk management technique. And biometric access control systems offer the perfect way to achieve true accountability. Biometrics make it easier for everyone to adhere to rules regarding access and timekeeping. They also eradicate the nuisance, and expense, of lost key cards, fobs or keys.
With biometrics, you can manage your workforce with more ease as well. At the click of a button, you can run a report which tells you who has been on-site and when. Administration of payroll and leave becomes less time-consuming. Everyone is made accountable for their movements on a level playing field – and because fingerprints cannot be lost, stolen or duplicated – the evidence will give you a complete picture.
At Almas, we know that technology makes business more efficient. Our security systems are tailor-made to fit your requirements. No matter whether you’re a small craft beer producer or a multi-site food producer, we have solutions that will work for you. Contact our friendly team on 0333 567 6677 and let’s help you to manage the risk in your business. Alternatively, drop us an email to [email protected].