Operation Liberty Shield: New Food Security Guidance

Article excerpt

As part of its continuing efforts to ensure the safety and security of the nation's food supply, the Food and Drug Administration has announced the availability of four guidance documents designed to help manufacturers minimize the risk of tampering or other malicious, criminal or terrorist actions. The FDA also has increased surveillance of domestic and imported foods and enhanced collaboration with other government agencies as part of its Liberty Shield initiatives.

Operation Liberty Shield is a multi-department, multi-agency national plan designed to increase protections for America's citizens and infrastructure. Maintaining the free flow of goods and people across U.S. borders with minimal disruption to the nation's economy and way of life is among the goals of the plan.

The FDA's new Liberty Shield initiatives build on Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson's leadership on food security, including new regulations in process to enhance import security and contain outbreaks of foodborne illness; over 800 new inspectors and field personnel; greater laboratory testing and response capabilities; and new use of intelligence information to help guide food security activities. The agency has initiated the following new activities:

* Working with the food industry to reduce threats--The FDA has issued new industry guidance on security measures and has encouraged specific additional industry security measures in response to the increased threat level.

* Increased surveillance of the domestic food industry--The FDA has increased facility inspections and product sampling.

* Increased monitoring of imported foods--The FDA has increased examinations and sampling of imported foods.

* Enhanced collaboration with other government agencies--The FDA has increased its joint activities with federal, state, and local partners to help ensure a safe and secure food supply, including work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure that outbreaks of illness or unusual patterns of illness or injury are quickly investigated.

"Securing our food supply against terrorist threats is one of our most important public health priorities, especially at a time of heightened alert," says Thompson. "FDA is responsible for 80 percent of what we eat. Americans depend on FDA to keep food safe and secure, and we will keep doing all we can to fulfill this critical mission."

"The guidance documents ... as part of the government-wide Liberty Shield initiative cover each segment of food and cosmetic operations, focusing on practical steps that will improve safety and security," says Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs. "In conjunction with increased surveillance of domestic and imported foods for biological and chemical agents of terrorism, these steps represent a new level of commitment at FDA to keep the food supply secure."

Two of the guidances are revised, final documents, and two are proposed guidances.

The FDA accepts comments on any of these guidance documents at any time and determines whether further revisions are appropriate. However, the FDA is requesting comments on the two draft guidance documents within 60 days of publication. The agency will consider these comments as it develops the final guidance documents, which will be published in the Federal Register. The four documents are:

Docket #01D-0583:

* Food Producers, Processors, and Transporters: Food Security Preventive Measures Guidance

* Importers and Filers: Food Security Preventive Measures Guidance

These final documents will help operators of food establishments (for example, firms that produce, process, store, repack, re-label, distribute, or transport food or food ingredients) and operators of food importing establishments, storage warehouses, and customs brokers identify preventive measures to improve the security of their operations. …