(May 6) LA MIRADA, Calif. — Steve Grover shared some information with members of the Buena Park, Calif.-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council May 1 that he hopes his audience never will have to use.

The vice president of health and safety regulatory affairs for the National Restaurant Association, Washington, D.C., discussed a topic during a council luncheon at the Holiday Inn that has attracted nationwide attention in recent months — food security.

He emphasized that there is a difference between food safety, which deals with the accidental contamination of food and generally results in only minor illness, and food security, which deals with an intentional act and may well result in severe illnesses or deaths.

In reality, the threat of terrorists targeting the food supply is relatively low, he said. Such an act is more likely to be perpetrated by a lone criminal, a disgruntled employee or an activist group.

Today’s centralized food systems make it easier to target food supplies by nuclear, biological or chemical means, he said. Such an attack could quickly overwhelm the health care system, and even the threat of an attack could cause panic and destroy a business.

The best way to ensure food security is through a TEAM — Threat, Evaluation And Management — approach, he said. Such an approach includes identifying potential problem areas, prioritizing them and tackling the highest priorities first.

Specifically, he suggested:

  • Know who you hire by checking references.

  • Create security awareness among employees.

  • Use some type of identification like uniforms or caps to make it easy to identify employees.

  • Restrict nonemployee access to food storage and preparation areas, and keep those areas secure.

  • Install video cameras, and eliminate hiding places.

  • Use tamper-evident packaging.

  • Know who you are buying from and check identification of delivery persons.

It’s hard to sell such a program when the industry is not facing a specific threat, he said. But the only way to ensure that the threat does not become a reality is to plan ahead.

He said the National Restaurant Association has a variety of materials to assist in that planning.