Food Safety Law Likely to Spur Need for Security Systems
WASHINGTON—With the House of Representatives having already passed food safety legislation and approval for the Senate’s version of the bill anticipated by year’s end, new regulations on foodservice facilities are expected to provide new business for installing security contractors.
The House passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 (H.R. 2749) last year with broad bipartisan support. The Senate’s Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) has also received backing from both parties.
The wide-ranging legislation would, in part, require food facilities to develop a written “food defense plan” to safeguard food products from intentional contamination.
Although the legislation does not regulate the use of security systems, installing contractors will be looked to by food manufacturers, processors, growers and distributors to help them achieve their food defense goals, according to William Ramsey, director of security for McCormick & Co. Inc., a global provider of spices.
“In your security plan, you will no doubt – especially the medium and large companies – be looking for electronic solutions as the most efficient methodology to achieve that food defense plan,” Ramsey says.
Ramsey, who is a member of the ASIS Int’l Agriculture & Food Security Council, says there are about 150,000 companies registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that comprise the food industry in the United States.
All but the smallest of these companies are expected to be regulated by the legislation, which includes “food safety” requirements to protect against unintentional contamination of food products from salmonella and E. coli., among other pathogens.
The legislation would also give the FDA mandatory recall authority, require processors and retailers to maintain an audit trail of where foodstuffs arrived from and were distributed to, and increase the frequency of FDA inspections.
The Senate bill was expected to be signed into law in May, but was delayed as Congress wrangled with health care reform, jobless benefits and other priorities.
“We believe the legislation will still be voted on and passed this year,” says Lisa Ciappetta, senior director of marketing for Protection One, a specialist in securing food industry facilities.
Many of the larger foodservice companies already have physical security systems in place to meet the bill’s base requirements. But among the vast amount of smaller facilities that could be regulated, says Ciappetta, “It’s anybody’s guess how many of them are fully protected.”
While large national providers such as Protection One, Siemens and ADT are active in the food and beverage industry, smaller dealers and integrators can expect to compete for business as well.
“The smaller food companies will still need a level of protection that won’t necessarily require the huge networked system,” Ciappetta says. “They will just have to have basic protections to prove there are preventative measures in place and that there is a way to audit.”
Should a food service company decide to implement electronic solutions, they will almost certainly be looking for access control, video surveillance cameras and intrusion alarms, Ciappetta says.
Multiple Protection Points
A foodservice facility can oftentimes have several different operational points where security systems can be used to secure an area, according to Ed Goldberg, president of Alscan Inc., a Birmingham, Ala.-based systems integrator with several food industry clients.
Indeed, H.R. 2749 includes language that would require facilities to evaluate its “processing security, cyber security, material security (including ingredients, finished product and packaging), personnel security, storage security, shipping and receiving security, and utility security.”
While the application of security technologies can vary, traditional installers are well-versed in protecting these differing areas of a foodservice facility, Goldberg says.
“Some of the equipment used is different. There is a lot of cold storage so you have to have cameras that can withstand temperature extremes,” he says. “Also, many areas may be wet because they are hosed down every night. Camera housings need to be able to be cleaned off easily without being damaged.”
Ramsey echoes the huge potential for small- to medium-sized installers to provide security for the smaller foodservice companies, many of which operate in rural areas.
“My advice for the electronic security industry is to partner with the people, working as consultants, who will be putting together these food defense plans,” he says. “The opportunity is going to be with those companies that have not yet made a security investment.”
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