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UK helps food, beverage businesses defend against attacks

Businesses involved in the food and beverage industries need to understand what motivates people to sabotage their products, according to the latest version of a 58-page guidance document issued by the government of the United Kingdom.

Published earlier this week by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the British Standards Institute, the revised guidance for industry suggests how food and beverage businesses might protect themselves from deliberate attacks. It is the fourth version of the U.K. guidance document, which was first issued in 2008.

To get manufacturers thinking about how to prevent attacks, the guidance document suggests they consider the motivations of those with the potential to do harm.

Individuals with extortionist, opportunist, extremist, irrational, disgruntled, malicious or professional criminal motivations are often among those with harmful intentions. The guidance says the type of threats may vary and may include economically motivated adulteration, malicious contamination, extortion, espionage, and counterfeiting.

The food safety and standards agencies used actual cases studies to show how the food supply has been tampered with and otherwise harmed in recent years. Among the first ten case studies were:

Case 1: In 2016, customs officials in Nigeria confiscated 2.5 tonnes of rice which they suspected was made from plastic.

Case 2: Olive oil has been a frequent target for adulteration, often by other vegetable oils. In 2017 Italian authorities disrupted an organized crime ring that was exporting fake olive oil to the United States. Similarly, Brazilian officials reported that a very high proportion of olive oils tested did not meet the quality standards required by their labeling.

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Case 3: Spanish police have accused a beef burger manufacturer of using minced pork and soya to increase the perceived meat content of their products for many years. It is not clear whether the burgers actually contained enough beef to satisfy regulations.

Case 4: In 2014, the Kenyan Dairy Board claimed that hawkers were putting lives at risk by adding the preservatives formalin and hydrogen peroxide in a what officials described as a “probably futile” attempt to extend the shelf life of milk.

Case 5: Staff at a European meat packing company felt, mistakenly, that they could avoid a product being condemned for contamination from foot and mouth disease by covering it with disinfectant.

Case 6: In 2005, a major British bakery reported that several customers had found glass fragments and sewing needles inside the wrappers of loaves.

Case 7: In 1984, the Rajneeshee sect in Oregon attempted to affect the result of a local election by contaminating food in 10 different salad bars, resulting in 751 cases of food poisoning from Salmonella.

Case 8: In 2013, a major soft drink supplier was forced to withdraw product from a key market when it was sent a bottle that had had its contents replaced with mineral acid. The attackers included a note indicating that more would be distributed to the public if the company did not comply with their demands.

Case 9: In 2007, a bakery found piles of peanuts dumped in its nut-free factory. It withdrew products and closed for a week-long deep cleaning to re-establish its nut-free status.

Case 10: In 2009, a former police officer was convicted of extortion after contaminating baby food with glass and demanding money from the multi-national manufacturer of the product.

The U.K.’s user-friendly guide has been published to help provide advice to businesses on the steps they can take to strengthen resilience in their operations to protect against a range of potential risks.

The latest version of the Publicly Available Specification (PAS) guidance titled: “PAS 96:2017 Guide to Protecting and Defending Food and Drink from Deliberate Attack,” has been jointly sponsored by the FSA and the U.K. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

It uses risk management strategies which can be adapted to operations of all sizes at different points in the supply chain. It also provides advice on how businesses can detect potential vulnerabilities and the steps that they can take to mitigate them.

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