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What is Food Defence?

What is food defence?

VACCP, TACCP and Food Defence – what does it all mean?

The amount of jargon being used around this topic isn’t reducing and is still causing confusion. I’m going to try to clear this up for you…here goes!

What is VACCP and TACCP?

VACCP (Vulnerability Assessment and Critical Control Points) and TACCP (Threat Assessment and Critical Control Points) 

These terms have been around a while now, but I’m really not a fan of these acronyms for 2 reasons;

  • Firstly, they refer to CCPs (Critical Control Points) but we don’t use CCPs to manage threats. It’s vital that CCPs remain purely focused on food safety (especially after all the time and effort we have put in to getting HACCP right). There may well be established CCPs that contribute to threat management such as foreign body detection systems for deliberate sabotage, but they are still primarily there for food safety reasons.
  • Secondly, threats (TACCP) and vulnerabilities (VACCP) are not two separate assessments they must be considered together. A threat being a deliberate act to cause harm or for financial gain and vulnerability being a measure of how exposed the business is to the threat having an impact. So the two must be considered as part of the same assessment.

The general accepted scope of these acronyms is that VACCP covers threats in the raw material supply chain, and TACCP covers threats from raw material intake through the rest of the product supply chain to the consumer. But you may well see differences in the defined scopes, hence the confusion.  At the start of every food defence training course, I always ask the question ‘so what do TACCP and VACCP cover?’ The response is usually a room of blank faces!

Food Defence is a better term to use

The vocabulary has a much clearer meaning from the outset.  We really don’t need to shoehorn theses new terms into unhelpful acronyms.

In the 2nd edition of our book, ‘Assessing Threat Vulnerability for Food Defence,’ by Adele Adams and Kassy Marsh, with a foreword from Professor Chris Elliott, we have defined food defence simply as  ‘to protect food products, raw materials and processes from threats’. We really don’t need to overcomplicate this. Here’s an extract from our book to explain our thinking:

“It is logical to view and use the term ‘food defence’ as an overarching term to describe and encompass all the activities carried out to protect food from threats. Other methodologies use the term food defence to merely focus on sabotage and use the term ‘food fraud’ to cover supply chain threats. However, it is the authors view, that this leads to similar issues being managed in different systems or silos and hence a lack of joined-up thinking.

A food defence plan is made up of 3 distinct elements:

  • Food fraud
  • Food terrorism
  • Food sabotage

The following diagram illustrates the different elements of a food defence plan”.

Some of these terms may be more pertinent to particular parts of the end-to-end supply chain, for example, food fraud may be more prevalent in the raw material supply chain, and food sabotage may be more likely during the manufacturing process. However, it would be a dangerous error to see them as exclusive to either part of the supply chain and they should be considered throughout.

The term ‘food defence’ is now being introduced as a requirement in the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 8.

This is a further build on the site security requirements from issue 7.  It is good to see this term now being used by BRC, however I do think joining the two halves (raw material threats and product threats) of the end-to-end supply chain together under an overall banner of ‘food defence’ makes much more sense.  All of these issues (food fraud, adulteration, substitution, sabotage, terrorism) are deliberate acts i.e. threats, hence considering them under one umbrella term of ‘food defence’ should help to simplify the assessments.

These two risk assessments may well still sit separately and should be carried out by differing teams, hopefully with some core members across both for consistency, however we need to think of the end-to-end supply chain in its entirety to ensure we are protecting the consumer from all plausible potential threats throughout it.

Understanding Food Defence

We’re busy creating a series of videos for you on Food Defence, the first part we’ve released is ‘What is food defence and why do you need it?’  This handy short video can help your site to briefly understand what food defence is and why it shouldn’t just sit with the technical team. Why not use it in your next food defence meeting?

What is food defence and why do we need it? Video – Part 1 Transcript:

I’d like to tell you a little bit about Food Defence, to give you an understanding of what it means and how we can help you to protect your product and systems. This is the first video in the series, what is food defence and why do you need it?

Here at Adele Adams Associates, we have developed new methodology for assessing food defence threats and you can find more about this in the book we have written and the course we run. There will be details at the end of this video.  So what does food defence mean? It’s about protecting food products, raw materials, and your processes from threats.  And a threat, it’s a deliberate act to cause harm or financial gain.  So this is where your food fraud assessment would differ from HACCP. HACCP deals with accidental and is focused on food safety, whereas we’re talking about a deliberate act.

Food Defence is made up of 3 different elements.

You’ve probably heard a lot of this jargon being banded around.  The first is food fraud – which you may see more examples of in the raw materials side of the supply chain. This is where someone is setting out to make money from either counterfeit, adulterated, or substituted raw materials.  The second is food terrorism, which is a scary thought. It could happen at site level, but more likely in the raw materials supply chain. Although the protection measures can be limited at site level, we do need to have that on our radar.  And finally, food sabotage, which is the deliberate actions of individuals, such as disgruntled workers on site, to sabotage a product or a process. The motivation for this may differ; it may be driven through unhappiness or a need to seek revenge.

How do we go about a food defence plan?

The food defence assessment has to cover the whole end-to-end supply chain, right from source of raw materials through to the consumer. And this can be split into two parts, the green part of this illustration shows you the supply chain, looking back from your intake bay, up through the raw material supply chain for deliberate threats. This could mean that the raw material isn’t what it should be when it arrives at your back door.

Followed by the red part of the diagram, which shows you product threats in your factory box and throughout the rest of the distribution process until the product reaches the consumer. This is where we may see deliberate acts of sabotage happening.

So let’s have a quick look at raw materials.

Here are some examples of the most fraudulently seen raw materials, olive oil would be no surprise, honey, spices, fish, coffee, milk, and orange juice.

Here are some headlines from 2013:

When we saw the horsemeat scandal starting a need for a food defence plan, and pushing it up the agenda for the industry and enforcers. But it’s not just horsemeat, and that wasn’t in itself a food safety issue, we’ve seen others such as illegal dyes in spices and other foods, and allergens in spices which could cause harmful food safety reactions as well.

Product threats, where we mean threats to actual product you produce in your factory or throughout the downward distribution chain, so it’s harder to quantify the cost and impact of these but it could and does happen. Here are a couple of examples. A disgruntled worker spreading peanuts throughout a factory and an issue for Morrison’s where metal pins were inserted into green beans. And there are many more examples through a quick online search.

Why do we need a food defence system?

A food defence system protects you, it protects your brand and the consumer. It also helps to link up all the stages in the end to end supply chain, to make sure we’ve got the correct protection measures in place. Is it what you say it is on the pack?

To summerise this There is a lot to think about.  Food Defence in split into three different segments, food fraud, food sabotage and food terrorism. We need the whole site to have this mind-set for looking out for threats and being switched onto food defence as a topic, its not just a technical thing.

Want to find out more about food defence?

Visit our website adeleadmasassociates.co.uk and click on Food Defence VACCP/TACCP link in the menu which will take you through to our courses, where you can book onto a public course or ask us for dates on our on-site courses for up to 12 people.  Or purchase a hard copy or download our book “Assessing Threat Vulnerability for Food Defence” by Adele Adams and Kassy Marsh.

One comment

  1. Mostafa Mohammadi says:

    Hi, I am NUTRITIONIST. I am looking for course about food safety, food quality assistance, HACCP, TACCP, VACCP. Could you please help me out?

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