The FDA will launch Food Defense Awareness workshops to help processors ensure food safety (Credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is launching a new software tool that can help food production facilities prevent intentional food contamination, the agency has announced.
The Food Defense Plan Builder is intended to enhance the food industry's defense measures against acts of intentional food contamination. The free tool is designed to help food producers and operators of food processing plants to draw up customized plans to reduce the risk of intentional contamination. Using the tool is completely voluntary, the FDA noted, and at present there are no plans to make it mandatory. Still, many facilities prefer to take advantage of such risk-minimizing plans to ensure better protection of their products.
Before developing each individual plan, data regarding the facility in question needs to be fed into the system. That is why users are initially asked a series of questions designed to provide information about the plant itself and the type of food produced there and the processes of manufacturing, packing and storage. The tool is suitable for a wide range of food producers, such as those involved in primary production and manufacturing, retail and transportation. The Food Defense Plan Builder includes a vulnerability assessment, broader and more specific mitigation strategies and a detailed action plan, the FDA said.
The software will assist plant operators to develop the most effective food contamination prevention strategies by asking them questions like what they are already doing to protect the production and what they think they can improve. It will also ask them to assess what the most vulnerable points within their systems are and how they can be improved to add better protection. The tool also provides help to develop a plan to manage, track and prioritize the action steps already implemented.
The FDA plans to organize a series of Food Defense Awareness Workshops to provide training to people who wish to take advantage of the tool and to help them come up with more effective protection plans.
The FDA noted that all food defense plans and documents related to this are only stored in locations that users select. All documents and food defense plans that include sensitive information should be saved in a secure location and it is users' responsibility to take care of that, the agency stated.