part of a global supply chain raises questions about the resilience of the food supply in the United States. To improve the resilience of the food supply, a comprehensive approach that addresses food safety, food defense and food security must be implemented. This starts with the ability to access sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet dietary needs and maintain a healthy lifestyle (Food Security) . Ironically, more and more food is being imported into the United States, challenging that ability. In addition, while a globalized food supply can bring new opportunities, it can also bring challenges related to the protection of food products from intentional contamination or adulteration (Food Defense) and from unintentional contamination (Food Safety). In order to implement a comprehensive approach that enhances the resilience of our food supply, future risk management planning should take into consideration food safety, security and defense scenarios to define the best practices moving forward. For instance, considering food safety: Workers’ health is a central part of every food safety program where practices are implemented to ensure workers do not contaminate food. However, most of us, did not fully consider the extra mitigation measures necessary to protect workers from infecting each other at such scale. While current hygiene practices—handwashing, cleaning and sanitation—support both food safety and workers’ safety, the produce industry has had to adjust to implement extra mitigation measures.

And what about food defense? Now, it may be easier to imagine potential large-scale threats that could significantly alter daily activities and people worldwide if they were applied to our food system. The lesson to note here is that situations derived from large-scale threats should be considered when conducting a vulnerability assessment and evaluation of a food defense plan, and food defense practices should be applied through the entire food supply chain. When it comes to food security, it is much easier to see how food availability and choice were affected by the pandemic. When countries started shutting their borders to prevent infected persons from entering, food imports and exports were also interrupted. Grocery stores that had long abandoned the practice of keeping large inventories in warehouse storage, scrambled to secure new shipments of shelf-stable and paper products. With the uncertainty around food availability, some produce companies experienced decreased sales as customers shifted purchases away from perishable fruits and vegetables to shelf-stable products. Ironically, they abandon what many scientists recognize as the best medicine in the world, a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. What each company learns from this pandemic experience, and the changes that will be made going forward, may differ, but let’s use lessons learned to improve and strengthen our food supply chain. We should be taking a holistic approach that includes food safety, security and defense to be better prepared for the next unexpected event.

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MAY | JUNE 2020

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