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Food Defense Rule – What You Need to Know

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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What is the Food Defense rule and how is it different from the Preventive Controls rule proposed under FSMA?

On December 24, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed the Rule for Focused Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food against Intentional Adulteration under the Food Safety Modernization Act

Also known as the food defense rule, the proposed rule would require domestic and foreign facilities to address vulnerable processes in their operations to prevent acts on the food supply intended to cause large-scale public harm, and would require the largest food businesses to have a written food defense plan that addresses significant vulnerabilities in a food operation. Comments are due by end of the month.

In a recent FSMA Fridays webinar, sponsored by SafetyChain Software, Dr. David Acheson, and Melanie Neumann of The Acheson Group discussed this rule. We present some excerpts below). 

Who does the Food Defense rule apply to?

The goal of this rule is to put preventive controls in place where terrorism is a threat. By making this rule risk-based, FDA aims to prevent a single-point attack with potential mass casualties. This rule is focused on large manufacturers and processors of human food with sales of over $10 million. It will not affect small manufacturers or farmers with the exception of dairy operations and bulk liquids. 

If the rule applies to you, what do you need to do?

Assemble a food defense team with industry experts and come up with a food defense plan. Conduct vulnerability assessments. Think about the possible agents and the processes whereby that agent could be added to one of your foods. What are your actionable process steps and mitigation strategies? For instance, how can you control access to bulk liquids and bulk mixing? The food defense plan does not need to be validated, but it does call for training, monitoring, and documentation. 

What are the similarities and differences between Preventive Controls and Food Defense rules?

Unlike Preventive Controls rules, there is no need to validate that the Food Defense mitigation strategies are effective. Also, if you’re doing your own vulnerability assessment, you need to have someone who knows what they’re doing, but they don’t need to be a ‘qualified individual’ as required under the Preventive Controls rule. Another distinction is that with Food Defense, there’s no assumption that the food you produce is automatically adulterated if there are problems with your mitigation strategy.

How will I know if my Food Defense approach is effective?

It is impossible to know if a food defense strategy is effective without challenging the system. It is highly unlikely that FDA will simulate an attack to gauge Food Defense effectiveness. Even though the likelihood of a terrorist attack on the food supply is rare, the industry must go through due diligence to try to prevent attacks from happening. It is not enough to have a security camera in place if that camera doesn’t work or if no one is monitoring it. 


This rule will not be finalized until Spring of 2016. FDA wants comments from industry on Food Defense and on how it can be shaped into a practical and economically feasible program. 

Where does economically motivated adulteration fit into this?

FDA is covering economically motivated adulteration with the Preventative Controls rule, not Food Defense. There has been a lot of controversy regarding this decision. Where does precedent lead to a reasonably likely event to control? If the scope is not limited, this could require an excessive amount of testing for many different compounds in incoming ingredients with significant economic impact. 

More information visit www.SafetyChain.com/FSMA-Fridays.