FDA Tool Designed to Develop Plans Against Intentional Food Poisoning

A new software program released this week by federal health officials is designed to help prevent intentional food contamination from spreading to consumers.  

The FDA announced the Food Defense Plan Builder on May 13, indicating it is an easy to use program designed to customize defense strategies for food facilities’ operations during primary production, manufacturing, retail, and transportation.

The program incorporates FDA’s current policies in food defense and preparedness and offers a series of questions about the facility, manufacturing, processing, packaging, and delivery features. It then offers vulnerability assessments, mitigation strategies, and a plan of action.

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Manufacturers, retailers and distributors are not required by the FDA to enforce any defense strategies to prevent intentional contamination, but the agency is encouraging companies to take full advantage of the enhanced safeguards presented in the software.

The FDA has focused on food contamination defense strategies since the September 11, 2001 attacks, focusing on preventative ways to protect consumers against biological, chemical, and radiological attacks.

Intentional food poisoning is rare, but the FDA indicates that they are aware of at least two events that left many people needing medical treatment. In 2009, disgruntled restaurant employees contaminated salsa with pesticides and caused more than 40 people to become ill. In 1996, 12 lab workers became sick after eating pastries that were intentionally contaminated with a strain of Shingellabacteria.

Millions of Americans are sickened each year from food poisoning, whether intentional or unintentional. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 20,000 and 30,000 people are hospitalized each year for food poisoning and there are on average about two dozen known food poisoning deaths.


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