The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released a new tool to help bolster the food industry’s defense measures against an act of intentional food contamination. The Food Defense Plan Builder is a comprehensive, easy-to-use software program designed to help owners and operators of food facilities — ranging from primary production and manufacturing to retail and transportation — develop customized plans to minimize the risk of intentional contamination at their individual food facilities.
The FDA does not require food facilities to implement food defense plans, but many facilities have voluntarily put such plans into place to safeguard their products.
“The FDA is committed to providing best practices and resources to support industry as we pursue our shared goal of protecting our food supply,” says FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael Taylor. “We strongly encourage companies to take full advantage of the Food Defense Plan Builder.”
Cases of intentional contamination are infrequent but can entail serious adverse public health consequences. For example, in 2009, more than 40 people in Kansas became ill after disgruntled restaurant employees intentionally contaminated salsa with a pesticide. In 1996, 12 lab workers at a Texas medical facility became ill after eating pastries that were intentionally contaminated with a virulent strain of Shigellabacteria.
The Food Defense Plan Builder is FDA’s latest effort to help owners and operators of food facilities take appropriate action to defend the food supply. In the years following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the FDA released a number of food defense tools and resources to aid the U.S. food industry, federal partners, state and local regulators, and the international community in protecting the food supply against biological, chemical and radiological attack.
The Food Defense Plan Builder guides users through a series of substantive questions about the user’s food facility and the food manufactured, processed, packed or held there to develop a comprehensive food defense plan for the facility, which includes a vulnerability assessment, broad and focused mitigation strategies, and an action plan.
The content in the tool is based on the FDA’s food defense guidance documents and as such, the Food Defense Plan Builder is consistent with the FDA’s current thinking on food defense preparedness. In addition to providing new functionality for food defense planning and implementation, the Food Defense Plan Builder harnesses existing FDA tools and resources into a single application. These tools and resources include the FDA’s food defense guidance documents, Vulnerability Assessment Software Tool and Mitigation Strategies Database.