After much discussion with representatives from IDFA and other food industry associations, the Department of Homeland Security has decided that facilities using anhydrous ammonia for refrigeration will not be considered high-risk facilities for that use under the department's sweeping chemical security rule. Other onsite chemicals used by some processors, however, are subjecting processors to DHS's rule.
In addition to chemical companies, many IDFA members and other food processing companies were required earlier this year to undergo an online screening process to determine whether their facilities met DHS's concept of high risk. Although more than 34,000 facilities participated in the screening, only slightly more than 2,500 of them ended up being covered by the rule. These companies received preliminary notification of their risk determination late last month.
DHS used a tiered risk-determination system, with Tier 1 companies having the most risk and Tier 4 the least. Overall, most food facilities were determined not to be high risk or were grouped in Tier 4, the least restrictive group. All rankings are considered "preliminary," however, and will not be final until a site vulnerability assessment has been completed and reviewed by DHS.
"If your facility is Tier 4, DHS allows facilities to consider an alternative security program approach in lieu of DHS's standard site vulnerability assessment and its site security plan approach," said Clay Detlefsen, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs.
Detlefsen is currently exploring the alternative option with DHS. Where possible, the best option, according to Detlefsen, is for companies to make operational changes that will allow them to drop out of the rule altogether. DHS estimates that companies with even the least restrictive ranking, Tier 4, will spend 250 hours researching, gathering information, completing paperwork and reporting; they also are likely to spend another 200 hours or so developing a site security program. On top of that, a security program will require ongoing costs.
"If you can re-engineer your processes to exclude the chemicals that brought you into the rule, IDFA recommends that you make the necessary changes, resubmit a new Top-Screen form and wait for the letter informing you of your new determination," Detlefsen said.
Members with questions may contact Detlefsen at email@example.com or (202) 220-3554.