Americans eat a lot. It is estimated that the average citizen consumes around one ton of food a year. That’s roughly the weight of a fully grown polar bear. It’s unbearable, then, to imagine what a disruption in the food industry might mean to the nation. There are a number of risks, however, that threaten America’s food producers on a daily basis. Here are some of the dangers facing the industry.
Businesses must be vigilant to protect against food contamination. Outbreaks of Salmonella and food-borne illnesses make international news by disrupting global supply chains and impacting the health of consumers. Some contamination results from foreign matter, such as plastics, making its way into products, whether by human error or even sabotage. Having strong quality control procedures catches most problems, but there’s always a risk of unexpected issues like power outages resulting in spoilage or other damage.
Fire can be a major disruption to the industry. The ultimate concern is its potential for injury and death to workers, but it also can quickly wipe out an entire inventory and cause millions of dollars of damage to equipment and infrastructure. The presence of combustible dust increases the risk for factories and warehouses working with certain agricultural products, such as grains, sugar and powdered milk. It’s important for companies to embrace combustible dust management strategies, which could include training employees in proper handling and storage techniques and providing flame-retardant clothing.
Governments and financial organizations may be the biggest targets for online attackers, but the food industry is also threatened. Viruses risk the health and well-being of both the public, by potentially impacting critical components when diagnostic systems that manage and assess air quality and fire suppression are disrupted. Companies also may be financially crippled when hackers threaten data loss through the use of ransomware programs.
Addressing risk takes significant investments of time, money and manpower. Thankfully, America’s food industry has the stomach for it.