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Learning Points

Industrial espionage by intrusion

May 2022 

What if your competitor unashamedly takes pictures of your production area? It happened to one of our companies. How could this happen?

Proper preparation and connecting communication are key to a good reputation

April 2022

Restaurant chain Poule & Poulette opened its seventh restaurant in our country in 2021, after getting some bad press two years prior with an event that almost ruined its reputation. The chicken restaurant strives for serving responsibly farmed meat, with respect for animal welfare. Until the animal rights organisation Gaia leaked undercover images of the miserable conditions in which the chickens were allegedly farmed. The story made the national news for days.

Should every production site have its own trained spokesperson?

March 2022

Most food companies do not have their own communications manager. In a crisis situation, it will usually be the company leader who takes care of an interview. Is this the right call? What happens if you have multiple production sites? Should each location have someone who addresses the press? What happens if the press is at your gate: do you send them away or let them in?

What steps should you take at the first signs of a potential crisis?

February 2022

The FASFC takes a sample of a branded product and sends it to a laboratory. The analysis discovers an exceeded standard. What now? What steps should you take? Can you reduce the risk of an upcoming crisis or avoid it altogether?

When the shit hits the fan…

January 2022

You have been called up to manage a crisis. Together with the other crisis team members, you rush over to the crisis room. The department manager has already started with the state of affairs. Unfortunately, the phone does not stop ringing… Emails are still coming in… People are talking at the same time… It is a coming and going. Chaos and stress are increasing. What if we told you that good preparation might save you in this situation? Well-trained employees and a good crisis manual bring structure and overview. Every crisis team member knows his role and can follow a check list, which helps maintaining a calm work flow. This means that also the communications manager can rely on elaborate templates that are attached to the crisis manual.
Is this too good to be true? Or is the crisis manual in need of some improvements?

Crisis communication: too little preparation in reality.

December 2021

During our simulation exercises, we often notice that there is no crisis communication toolkit nor a trained spokesperson present. Crisis communication is often the hot potato that is passed on to the marketing or sales manager. Due to a lack of knowledge, experience and training this becomes problematic during a crisis.
How can you step things up?

When a consumer leaks your explanation to the press.

November 2021

A consumer buys a product that contains a bizarre and relatively large foreign body. He thus contacts the customer service. The company takes the complaint seriously and starts investigating the case. Meanwhile, the story also appears in the press. They wonder how a foreign body this large has got into the product.

Cyber Security Awareness month. Think Before U Click!

October 2021

Cyber security is a major concern to many companies. The need to arm oneself is ever-increasing. How do you protect your company against a cyberattack? Should you pay ransom or not?

Every manager’s nightmare…

September 2021

How resilient is your company in the event of a serious workplace accident?

In the event of a fatal work accident, your company had better consist of a crisis management culture. First, you need procedures dictating how to respond. Second, operators must be well-rehearsed in how to react. Third, the crisis management team must be addressed quickly. Otherwise, your company's reputation could be seriouslydented as in the case below.

How do your employees respond to strangers on company premises?

June 2021

Measure your Food Defense culture with an intrusion test
Bringing safe products on the market is top priority in the food industry. While intentional contamination of food may happen, it is (fortunately) not a frequent phenomenon. Nonetheless, it must receive some necessary attention. On the one hand, it may have a devastating impact on your company (in terms of reputation, public health and financial damage). On the other hand, customers and certification bodies impose requirements in the area of Food Defense which a food company has to meet. How do you boost Food Defense culture in your company?

Your production environment up for grabs for cybercriminals?

May 2021

Embrace industry 4.0 in a cyber-secure way

Have you got an IT & OT cyber policyCongratulations! Then you belong to the lucky few: only 34% of Belgian industrial manufacturing companies invest in this. Why should you have an OT policy?
February 2021, the operating system of a water treatment plant in Florida (USA) was hacked. The hackers were able to manipulate the water chemically. The amount of sodium hydroxide was increased one hundred times by the hackers, thus poisening the water supply of the entire city. Fortunately, the water treatment company was able to detect and undo the manipulation immediately.
How can you protect your production systems against unwanted (digital) manipulation?

Parcel bombs explode at food and retail in Germany

April 2021

Security measures and awareness create a Food Defense culture
Our food companies pay increasingly more attention to the concept op Food Defense, which is a good thing. Its purpose is to better protect products, people and infrastructure against intentional acts. In any case, prevention is better than cure. Sometimes current events also make food industry security a high priority…

Consumer services vs quality department

March 2021

The consumer is the crucial final link in the food chain. He buys your products and consumes them. Occasionally, he has a complaint about a product. Most cases are not that serious and can be dealt with quickly and smoothly. Sometimes, however, more attention is required.

We have recently seen a number of critical and peculiar cases where that extra attention turned out to be of the utmost importance...

How prepared is your crisis team?

February 2021

The question is not ‘if’ but ‘when’ your company will be faced with a crisis. Reality shows us that every food company – sooner or later – will face a crisis. At that moment it is crucial to have procedures, a trained Crisis Management Team and communication tools in place. The secret of successful crisis management lies mainly in preparation. How can we help you?

How accessible is your company?

January 2021

Every food company’s mission is to market high-quality, tasty products. This is generally the case. However, zero risk does not exist. It is therefore always possible that a consumer has a complaint about your product. How do you ensure that the consumer reaches your consumer service? What is the best way to handle such a complaint?


Crisis management in times of Covid-19

November 2020

It appears that the measures concerning meetings and telework are here to stay, affecting every crisis management team. There is always somebody in quarantine who has to participate remotely in crisis meetings. How do you avoid the loss of efficiency caused by the digital chaos?

Telework: 7 fat months for cybercriminals

September 2020

Since the beginning of lockdown, the number of cyber attacks has increased. Unfortunately, teleworking often makes your company an easy victim for cybercriminals. Luckily, you can arm yourself with the right preventive measures.

Reputation management in times of fake news and online buzz

March 2020

Before customers go into business with your company, they look you up online. Not only do they look at how you position yourself on your website, but they also take into account what others write about youNews and consumer trends influence your company’s reputation. How should you deal with and respond to this?

Crisis management should be a part of your company’s DNA

February 2020

A new employee... Besides a good perspective also a learning process: guided tours, the handover of materials, an immersion in the company culture.... He/she has to discover the ins and outs of the company in all areas, including crisis management (cyber security, social media, press, food defense). How do you include this?

When a crisis takes place abroad...

January 2020

The vast majority of the Food Security members export products abroad. Some dispose of their own staff abroad (sales office, warehouse, etc.). Others even have production sites abroad. In times of crisis, it is important to be able to make an appeal to these employees as well.

Social media: a security risk?

December 2019

Do you know what you can find on social media about your company and employees? A sensitive consumer complaint (which might include a foreign body), pictures of your production line, information about certain systems... and access to your management's private pages with details about when they are travelling, where they live etc. This of course makes it very easy for (cyber)criminals to get started. Your employees, your (inactive) company page and all unofficial company pages are a security risk and have a negative impact on your reputation. What can you do about this?

Consumer or fraud?

November 2019

Even though your company strives for a 100% quality, sometimes products are not up to standard. All companies strive for having satisfied consumers. Positive consumer feedback is of course the icing on the cake. However, negative feedback is often much more interesting: a complaint gives your company the opportunity to make up for it and to learn from it for the future. How do you deal with a consumer complaint in the year 2019?

“Click on this and win a dinner worth €100!” Will you fall for that?

October 2019

Unfortunately, the cyber criminals of nowadays are much more sophisticated than ever. Their phishing emails are no longer clearly marked by an inheritance subject or by an amount of mistakes. Cyber criminals nowadays often prepare for months. They observe email traffic, wait for the right moment – for example, when someone is ill or on leave – and immediately haul in a big loot. How do you arm your company against them?

Spokesman thrown to the wolves

September 2019

In times of crisis, is it possible to talk to the press in a way that your customers’ trust can be maintained? A couple of years ago, some children became ill after having a drink at their campsite. The guilty party? The manufacturer. The media, of course, jumped on the story and focused on an ill child who was in the hospital. How did the company talk to the press, as it most likely had never experienced anything of this nature and size before?

Does your company have a lively Food Defense?

June 2019

Would you leave your front door open when you go off to work or trust strangers with the keys to your house? "No.” The same point can be made with regard to your company security. On the one hand, you make sure that physical security is in place (badge system, fence, camera surveillance). On the other hand, you invest in human security by training your employees (SCAN method, following the procedures, etc.). These measures create a security culture which is necessary within the framework of Food Defense. Many of our food companies are on the right track, yet sometimes a story emerges....

Food Fraud: when it’s too good to be true..

May 2019

A big “eye opener” in terms of food fraud in Europe was the horse meat scandal. The European Union then took some decisions in order to tackle this problem more firmly. Nevertheless, they could not avoid the Fipronil eggs and a new meat scandal (in Belgium). Other cases are bound to follow...

Product tampering with needles causes debris in a sector worth millions of dollars

April 2019

September 2018/ It was global news – needles were being found in strawberries all over Australia. As they were getting closer to tracking down the criminal, needles started turning up in bananas and apples as well. Copycats increased the complexity of the situation. The government promised a reward of $100,000 for useful information about the perpetrator and threatened with the maximum sentence of 15 years. Things went from bad to worse: tons of fruit were dumped, New Zealand no longer wanted to import Australian fruit. This case shows how deficient crisis communication can affect an entire sector.

How a blocked product was put on the market…

March 2019

The quality department receives a complaint about a foreign body. After investigating it, the service found that the product in question should not have been on the market. The product had been blocked four months before due to the possible presence of foreign bodies…

A hot potato? Pass it on to the right person!

February 2019

Are you of the same opinion? Then at least take the time to forward this learning point to those who you think their job it should be: the IT department or top management. Research among Belgian companies shows that a cyber attack is in the top three of criminal phenomena that companies expect to fall victim to this year.

BRC FOOD 8: Make your employees the strongest link in your company.

January 2019

A new year, a new version of BRC. This version draws attention to cultureawareness and engagement. At Food Security, we have been responding to these factors for many years now by creating a positive crisis management culture within your company. 

You will be hacked and you know it!

December 2018

Everyone falls for a phishing mail once in a while. Criminals are getting increasingly better at social engineering: they use information that can be found on the Internet (website, LinkedIn, Facebook) to convince you with a credible story. Once persuaded, you may click or transfer money. A study by PwC shows that 53% of the Belgian companies dealt with cyber crime last year...

From identity theft to global crime

November 2018

A food company receives returned letters containing product samples which had not been sent by them. The envelopes and the letters imitate the company’s look & feel. The recipients are located all around the world. Could this be fraud? What now? It happened to one of our members.

Is your crisis team ready? Take the test and let us organise a simulation exercise for you!

October 2018

In the context of the Fipronil crisis, a food company had to take the necessary action. Afterwards, we were told that they had been able to successfully deal with this crisis thanks to the simulation exercise that we had organised at their premises.

Does your HR manager have a sixth sense?

September 2018

i-Force* carried out a pre-employment screening (PES) during the recruitment of an operator for a food company. In the online questionnaire, the candidate had indicated to have no history of employment conflicts. The analysis of his resume revealed that his employment history consisted of short-term contracts alternated with a number of periods during which his occupations were unclear.

Food Safety: once again a cultural matter

June 2018

A customer returned a product to a food company (a manufacturer of fresh products) because it contains a metal object. This customer luckily noticed it in time and could prevent worse implications. But how did this object end up in a product whose production line includes metal detection? Could this be a matter of sabotage?

What now? It happened to one of our members.

Rejected products for sale on Facebook

May 2018

A food company notices that their products are being sold on Facebook, most of them are unlabeled and described as "manufacturing defects". It would concern a limited number of products that had been rejected during production... What now? This happened to one of our members...

Google never forgets...

April 2018

Food Security attained the ‘International crisis communications conference’ in Berlin. One workshop demonstrated that Google does not or hardly forgets your crisis, which turns out to be an important eye-opener…

Identity and financial fraud continue to claim victims!

March 2018

An existing retailer informs you by e-mail that they want to become a customer. Several checks are performed and everything seems fine. The first order is placed and delivered, but no payment follows… What now? This has happened to several of our members.

Social everywhere? Good agreements provide for good working conditions

February 2018

From snaps, to a Whatsapp message to adding a photo to your instastory… Nowadays, there are so many possibilities to share your life with the world. The future of social media doesn’t look particularly boring, certainly not if no rules are drawn up… Various members of ours have already been confronted with inappropriate use of social media on the workfloor.

Non-compliant sample, every food company’s fear.

January 2018

The FASFC is on the doorstep to take a few samples. Several weeks later, the analysis results are in: a fluid that’s in contact with the products is non-compliant… What now? It happened to one of our members.

Food Defense: from paper to practice!

December 2017

A journalist recently walked into the biggest arms depot in Belgium unhindered. Despite being an unauthorised intruder, no one questioned who he was or what he was doing there. In short, it wasn't only the physical security that left much to be desired, but also the vigilance of the staff.

Everybody at home during the festive season!

November 2017 

Christmas is approaching fast. Although this is a period when many people take time off, it shouldn’t be the annual weak link when it comes to following up incidents…

How vulnerable is your company in cyber space?

October 2017

In Europe, Belgium comes bottom of the class: as many as 9% of all Belgians has already been a financial victim of hackers. That’s why the government launched an awareness-raising campaign concerning cyber security in the month of October.

Recall due to foreign object: a trend on the rise

September 2017

Analysis of the RASFF reports (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) proves that notifications due to foreign objects have been on the rise since 2014 (an increase of 22% between 2015 and 2016).

How to respond to (empty?) threats from an employee in the context of food safety?

June 2017

Imagine: multiple employees come to warn you that a co-worker has threatened to put ‘something’ in the products. What do you do?
It has already happened to many in the food business.

Can your employees spot a phishing scam?

May 2017

In May, a large-scale infection of the WannaCry ransomware was detected in a number of large Spanish companies. From here, the ransomware was able to spread to 150 countries and no fewer than 48 healthcare organisations in the UK. That's just a taste of what cybercriminals are capable of and a vision of what the future holds.

How a ‘Social Media Policy’ could have prevented image damage…

April 2017

How to avoid a commercial difference from being fought out on your brand’s official Facebook page? It happened to one of our members… 

Fraud in all its facets

March 2017

In 2015, we already warned you, currently financial fraud is better organised than ever and increasingly hard to trace. Several of our members have had to deal with it…


An anonymous complaint with an authority on food safety

February 2017

What do you do if somebody tries to damage your company’s reputation by filing an anonymous complaint with the authorities? It happened to several of our members…


A consumer issues a threat: “I’ll post the photos online!”

January 2017

What do you do when a consumer complaint turns into a case of blackmail? It happened to one of our members ... 



A counter analysis or not?

December 2016

Imagine receiving a letter from a lab stating that your product has been labelled ‘non-conform’ ...


Your company name as news headline

November 2016

It's the weekend, just before a bank holiday and the holiday period. One of your employees is caught up in a personal drama ...


Animal rights activists at the door?

October 2016

Recently, an animal rights organisation invited people on Facebook to protest outside a company that’s active in the poultry sector.


Is the captain at the helm?

September 2016

Tuesday, 9 o’clock, the person in charge of quality receives a third complaint on the same issue. Although the cause is still unclear, the problem can’t be ignored.


The consumer eats your products also during the holidays…

June 2016

The consumer eats your products also during the holidays…


Diversity on the work floor: a substantial challenge

May 2016

We’re all different and that’s a good thing, too. However, sometimes these differences lead to incidents at and beyond the production line...


Food Defense: A number of our members took on the "reality check"!

April 2016

These companies had an external party (Food Security) test an important aspect of their Food Defense plan: how "aware" are our employees towards undesired "visitors"?

And suddenly the customer finds all sorts of things in their food…

March 2016

Events at fellow food companies can have an impact on your company.

Courier parks in disabled parking space to buy a sandwich

Februari 2016

Or will it be your company name in this newspaper headline soon? 

Why does one crisis management team do better than another... ?

January 2016

When it comes to managing a crisis (real or simulated), we see clear differences between teams 

Food Fraud: Assessment Tool available (info flash)

January 2016

Food fraud is a growing concern. Recent scandals have increased the need to protect consumers by strengthening the food industry’s ability to detect and combat fraud within organisations and across supply chains.

Pre-employment and in-employment screening: unnecessary paranoia or a necessary evil?

December 2015

By now, we all agree that pre-employment screening isn’t a case of unnecessary paranoia and even that in-employment screening isn’t.

“Security” in our food companies: are we doing enough in this field as a company?

November 2015

No one has failed to notice the latest events or that the measures taken in our country are having quite an impact on a large number of companies.

Incident Culture… The Missing Link?

October 2015

Food Security has existed for almost 30 years now. In all those years, we’ve seen a lot. Frequently, the same finding catches our attention. The human factor plays a decisive role in incident and crisis management.

How to avoid organisational chaos during a crisis meeting…!

September 2015

crisis meeting is a necessary evil; any experienced person will second this. 

Stress, lack of time and the impact of decisions are, among others, a number of elements that make such a situation complicated.

False documents, more and more new methods!

August 2015

Frauds aren't hanging about and they're unleashing their creativity on you. In the past, we have issued multiple warnings about the dangers of fraudulent invoices and scams that Belgian companies, including food companies, have become the victim of.

Halal certification, avoid the amalgam! (info flash)

August 2015

Current affairs have recently shown us again that a flashpoint can come into existence very quickly and can expand rapidly, and especially in the slow season we are in now. (Parliament recess, holidays…). We are referring more specifically to the ‘buzz’ that was going on concerning the ‘Halal’ certification of a pear syrup manufacturer in Liege ("sirop de Liège")

Mystery Call : to do or not to do ?

July 2015

There are advocates and opponents of mystery calls.

Some see them as a monitoring tool, others, like us, see them as a pedagogical tool.

Murphy's Law

June 2015

The impending holiday period is synonymous with lower attendance, interim personnel, summer jobs, back-ups et cetera. All these elements are a cocktail that can allow a manageable incident to escalate into a crisis.

He did it!

May 2015

Your customer service receives a serious complaint via e-mail. The complaint is about a foreign object that nearly choked the person involved. However, this product is not manufactured by your company...

Refugees via truck on company premises

April 2015

The employees of one of our members (in Belgium) were recently confronted with six refugees who arrived on their company’s site as stowaways in a sealed refrigerated trailer.

Manage comments on social media

March 2015

Consumers are increasingly using social media to share good but also unpleasant experiences with products or services with the people around them.

Fraud, the NeverEnding Story… (info flash)

March 2015

(Very) recent cases remind us that it is important to be vigilant in commercial contacts to avoid falling victim to well-organized fraud practices.

Standard complaint... or not?

Februari 2015

Your customer service receives a complaint via e-mail. The complaint is related to a foreign object in your product. After briefly scanning the complaint, customer service classifies it as a standard complaint...

A visit from the authorities

Januari 2015

One of our members recently received a visit from the Labour Inspection. In itself nothing to worry about, but…

Retail fraud?!

December 2014

An urgent order of a standard product by a prospect, a new client, a new contact and there is no negotiation about the price. You may think it’s the ‘deal’ of the year. Think twice...

Preparing for a crisis: useful tools

November 2014

We have frequently discussed the importance of a well-developed crisis manual, but in addition to this ‘manual for a crisis’ there are other tools that should be examined and further developed upfront.

Save time and work during the crisis!

A fire with casualties? A ‘specific’ task for everybody!

October 2014

During incidents like a fire, an accident, et cetera intervention plans are activated and, if necessary, the crisis team as well. The crisis team then has to manage the secondary consequences of the situation (communication with the press, resuming activities, contact with clients…) and ensure that urgent actions in the intervention plan are carried out (fire, victims).

Electricity shortage

September 2014

As you know, this winter Elia may switch to the ‘power down plan’ to deal with possible shortages in electricity in a controlled way.

Fraud (info flash)

September 2014

Are you about to strike an exceptional deal? 

Read this first! 

Recent incidents among our members, unfortunately, remind us that it is important to be vigilant during commercial contacts so you don’t fall victim to well-organized swindlers!

Maintaining the production line

August 2014

Lines are regularly shut down and a number of machines are subjected to ‘major maintenance’. Components are checked, others are replaced, everything is turned inside out by your own staff or external subcontractors.

The calm before the storm

July 2014

The world cup is over and the Tour will not last forever either. Unless government negotiations provide us with daily news, we are about to enter ‘the off-season’, a period when we do not expect a lot of news. 

« I’m currently out of office... please contact me later! »

June 2014

The summer holidays are about to begin and the majority of you have already planned your holidays and appointed a back-up for this period. Perhaps you have even already prepared your ‘out of office’ notice.

The crisis manual: a tool or a dead book?

May 2014

By now, the need for a crisis manual is an established fact for companies who are a part of Food Security. However...

Managing the dialogue with a dissatisfied consumer

April 2014

A consumer contacts you to report that he has found a foreign object in one of your products. Customer service sends a thank you letter and get a reply from the consumer… but he is very dissatisfied!

How do you prepare for the Food Defense aspect of an audit?

March 2014

Various members of Food Security have reported issues surrounding certification audits for Food Defense...

A missed complaint... A missed opportunity!

Februari 2014

A consumer discovers an anomaly in a product. Alarmed he picks up the phone and calls the company. The receptionist immediately wants to put the consumer through but something goes wrong during the process and the connection is cut off...