FSIS to Push 'Voluntary' Food Defense Plans

A July letter from the USDA agency will ask establishments that did not have such a plan in place, according to a December 2009 survey, to adopt one.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service doesn't have a regulation in place that requires establishments to adopt a food defense plan. But that doesn't mean the agency can't strongly encourage them. To that end, FSIS is sending a letter in July to each establishment that did not have such a plan in place, according to a December 2009 survey, asking it to adopt one. And FSIS inspectors will "discuss voluntary adoption and implementation" during their site visits, using a script explaining what such a plan should contain. Plans are "an important tool that can reduce the risk of intentional contamination of food products," the script says.

The agency's assistant administrator in the Office of Policy and Program Development provided the script in a June 29 notice. FSIS makes the General Food Defense Plan available online in English, Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Spanish. Podcasts and videos also are available at the site, and an FSIS help desk available at 877-374-7435 can answer questions about plans from small plants.

The General Food Defense Plan includes outside security measures, inside security measures, personnel security, and incident response security measures:

  • Outside includes fences, lighting, security of outside storage, protective measures for incoming and outgoing shipments, and proper handling of suspicious mail.
  • Inside includes inventory control, an emergency alert system, water and ice security, and computer firewalls and password protections.
  • Personnel includes background checks and color-coded uniforms or other means to identify workers with their specific jobs.
  • Incident response includes encouraging reporting of unusual activity, investigating security breaches, keeping emergency contact lists up to date, and maintaining and periodically reviewing a product recall plan.

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