Food Defense Act Proposed By FDA to Defend Terrorist Contamination

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a new food safety rule last week, which is aimed at protecting the public food supply against a potential terrorist attack intending to cause mass-illness and death through contamination.

The proposed food defense act would place restrictions on the largest food businesses in the United States and abroad. The intention is to prevent food facilities from becoming targets of intentional attempts to contaminate the food supply in this country.

The measure was proposed on December 20, and it is the sixth rule issued this year under the FDA’s authority through the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). It is intended as a preventive measure, and the agency maintains that no incidents have occurred that raise concerns about the safety of the U.S. food supply.

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“The goal is to protect the food supply from those who may attempt to cause large-scale public health harm,” said Michael R. Taylor the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine in a recent FDA statement. “Such events, while unlikely to occur, must be taken seriously because they have the potential to cause serious public health and economic consequences.”

Under the food defense rule, certain processes among food businesses would be affected, processes which would be the most vulnerable to contamination risk.

Food facilities would be required to have a written food defense plan addressing significant vulnerabilities in the food production process. The facilities would also be required to identify and implement strategies to address vulnerabilities. The facilities would also need to establish monitoring procedures and corrective actions in the event of contamination and to verify the system is working properly. Companies would also be required to ensure personnel were properly trained and maintain accurate records.

Certain exemptions would be allowed based on the size of the business, sales, types of operations. It does not apply to farms and food for animals.

The new rule is enacted under the bipartisan FSMA and builds on the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. This is the first time the FDA proposed regulations to prevent intentional contamination of the national food supply.

The agency is seeking public comment on the proposed regulation. Specifically the FDA hopes to solicit comments on low-risk activities for intentional contamination at farm mixed-type facilities with a focus on risk presented by acts of terrorism.


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