Safety and security in food production

There’s a strong argument to say that food production should be regarded as much as a part of a nation’s critical industries as the provision of energy, water, healthcare and financial services. Disruption to the production of food, the potential danger this can present to consumers, and the shortages on supermarket shelves that this can mean will result in severe consequences for citizens. In addition, when food production represents such a significant proportion of global GDP – and in many countries the production of certain foods a central part of the nation’s economy – widespread disruption can have a serious economic impact.

From food contamination, to the reduced supply of ingredients, to the risk of explosion, there have always been a number of factors that have the potential to cause disruption to food production. The recent Covid-19 pandemic added to the issues, with production stopping due to lockdowns and supply chain issues and, even when restarted, demanding an increased level of scrutiny of health and safety processes.

It’s essential that similarly sophisticated and comprehensive safety and security measures are taken in food production facilities as any other critical facility. Here we look at the security needed throughout the food production process, from perimeter to packing.

The risks in food production

Examples of food contamination issues are numerous, be it dangerous baby formula; horse meat in beef burgers; rat poison in panettone or needles found in strawberries. More fundamentally, employees not adhering to processes and rules regarding hygiene and cleanliness can lead to dangerous bacteria finding its way into food.

Whether accidental or intentional, contamination or adulteration of food presents a real risk in food production if not identified and addressed quickly. The most severe immediate consequences are, of course, that contaminated food could find its way to consumers and cause harm and illness. Beyond this are the commercial issues, with mass recalls of product and long-term damage to brand reputation certain to have an impact.

An additional risk in food production is that of explosion. Whether due to dust explosions or flammable materials, the consequences of explosions can be catastrophic. Therefore, areas of the food production facility where potentially hazardous materials are stored should employ specialist surveillance technology. Given the specific nature of the security technologies that can help mitigate that risk, we’ve covered that in a separate blog post.

Protection starts at the perimeter

It’s obvious to say, but ensuring that no unauthorized personnel can access the food production facility is the first step in protection. This starts at the site’s perimeter, where a combination of surveillance technology can be used to alert security officers to any attempt to breach the perimeter, day or night, and minimize false alarms.

The optimal solution should integrate thermal and visual cameras, allowing for the identification and examination of a potential threat, excluding non-dangerous ones – such as the passage of an animal – and notify security immediately in the case of critical situations. Radar technology can further enhance the surveillance solutions. Set up to operate within specific areas, such as the roof of buildings or a fenced area, radar can detect movement within a larger area than thermal cameras alone.

Access control throughout the facility

Effective access control throughout a food production facility to ensure that not only authorized but properly trained and skilled personnel enter specific areas is essential – for instance, food production lines require far stricter control than administrative offices, and access control solutions need to recognize these differences.

Access badges are still the most widely used tool in business and industry today, but they do not guarantee that the person who is entering with that badge is actually its owner. In this regard, additional levels can be integrated, such as the combined use of badges and a temporary QR code on the smartphone of the person entering.

Linking good perimeter protection with an efficient access control system can significantly reduce the risk of infringement or access by malicious or unauthorized persons, which may or may not intentionally compromise the integrity of food and the safety of personnel.

Monitoring the production lines

While the food production industry has always placed a priority on hygiene and cleanliness, the Covid-19 pandemic has shone an even brighter spotlight on the processes needed to stop the spread of bacteria and disease. Rules around cleanliness, distancing and social interaction and be monitored and enforced through video surveillance, analytics and audio technology to broadcast warnings and reminders.

With regard to the issue of food contamination, surveillance of the food production line itself represents the last line of defense, both in prevention and in effective investigation should a contamination incident occur. The ability to quickly and specifically identify when the contamination took place can minimize the broader impact on production and product recall. Innovative technologies can be employed which allow food producers to closely monitor food production activity through video surveillance, without breaching the privacy of employees.

Ensuring continuity in food production and supply

From protecting the perimeter of plants and warehouses from intrusions and break-ins, to access management and safeguarding the activity of production lines, to defending the physical security of employees and suppliers, the solutions discussed in this post can support the food industry in a wide range of applications. Ultimately, however, the aim to is ensure an uninterrupted supply of high-quality, healthy food to citizens around the world.

More information on Axis solutions designed to protect the most critical parts of a nation’s infrastructure can be found in our e-book.

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