By: Ted Elkin and Julia Guenther
While food safety—preventing unintentional contamination from sources likely to be found in the food chain—is a priority for FDA, so is food defense—protecting our food from intentional contamination by saboteurs, terrorists or other criminals.
Such an incident, should it occur, could have widespread public health and economic consequences. Therefore we work hard every day to minimize such risk.
In the last decade, FDA has provided various tools, resources, guidance, and information to the food industry to help them prevent intentional contamination. We work closely with state and local governments, as well as with the food industry, to better understand the vulnerabilities in the food system and identify the appropriate strategies to protect the food supply.
Recently, we released a new tool that will help the owners and operators of food facilities develop customized food defense plans to minimize the risk of intentional contamination. It’s a software program called the Food Defense Plan Builder and it’s designed to be easy to use. This desktop tool can be downloaded free of charge at www.fda.gov/food/fooddefense/.
This exciting new tool guides users through a series of substantive questions about the user’s food facility and the food manufactured, processed, packed, or held there to help the user develop a facility specific food defense plan. The tool will guide owners and operators by prompting them to ask the right questions in food defense planning: What are we already doing to protect our facility? What aren’t we doing that we should or could be doing? What are the vulnerable points within our system and how do we provide added protections? And it even helps with developing a plan to manage, track and prioritize the action steps identified using the tool.
While the use of the Food Defense Plan Builder is voluntary, we strongly encourage food facilities to create food defense plans. In our complex, global marketplace, it’s no exaggeration to say that an incident at one company could affect the whole world.
So, what’s your plan?
Ted Elkin, is Director, Office of Analytics and Outreach, at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Julia Guenther, is a Policy Analyst, Food Defense and Emergency Coordination Staff, at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition