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Homeland Security

20 March 2003

FDA Heightens Protections of Food Supplies

(Action comes in response to terrorist alert) (980)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking more aggressive
action to protect the nation's food supplies from criminal or
terrorist action, according to an announcement from the agency March
FDA is working to reduce potential threats, improve security measures
and increase surveillance of both domestic and imported food supplies,
according to a press release. The action is taken in accordance with
Operation Liberty Shield, an enhanced state of readiness announced by
the Department of Homeland Security March 17 in light of the increased
likelihood of terrorist action in response to U.S. military operations
in Iraq.
"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," said FDA Commissioner Mark B. McClellan.
FDA is issuing a series of recommendations to operators of food and
cosmetic businesses describing a variety of steps they can take to
better insure the safety and security of their products. The
recommendations are not mandatory.
The full version of the FDA press release providing more detailed
descriptions of the recommendations -- or guidance documents -- is
available at: http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2003/NEW00881.html
Following is the excerpted text of the press release:
(begin excerpt)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
March 19, 2003
FDA Issues New Security Guidance as Part of Operation Liberty Shield
To Protect the Food Supply
As part of its continuing efforts to ensure the safety and security of
the nation's food supply, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today
announced the availability of four guidance documents designed to help
manufacturers minimize the risk of tampering or other malicious,
criminal or terrorist actions. FDA also announced increased
surveillance of domestic and imported foods, and enhanced
collaboration with other government agencies, as part of its Liberty
Shield initiatives.
Operation Liberty Shield (www.dhs.gov) is a comprehensive national
plan designed to increase protections for America's citizens and
infrastructure while maintaining the free flow of goods and people
across our border with minimal disruption to our economy and way of
life. Operation Liberty Shield is a multi-department, multi-agency,
national team effort, and the Department of Health and Human Services
has many critical roles in this effort. With responsibility for the
safety and security of 80% of the nation's food supply, the Food and
Drug Administration has initiated the following new activities:
--Working with the food industry to reduce threats: 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: FDA has
increased facility inspections and product sampling.
--Increased monitoring of imported foods: FDA has increased
examinations and sampling of imported foods.
--Enhanced collaboration with other government agencies: FDA has
increased its joint activities with Federal, state, and local partners
to help ensure a safe and secure food supply, including work with CDC
to ensure that outbreaks of illness or unusual patterns of illness or
injury are quickly investigated.
FDA's new Liberty Shield initiatives build on HHS Secretary 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.
"Securing our food supply against terrorist threats is one of our most
important public health priorities, especially at a time of heightened
alert," said Tommy G. Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human
Services. "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 released today 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," said 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 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 improve the security
of their operations.
The proposals cover food stores and food service establishments such
as bakeries, bars, cafeterias, commissaries, convenience stores,
fairs, grocery stores, food service for airlines and trains,
restaurants, and vending machine operators as well as cosmetic
establishments. They also identify preventive measures that operators
can to minimize the security risks to their products.
FDA's guidance documents are not regulations and are not mandatory.
They set forth voluntary recommendations from FDA. They do not create
or confer any rights for, or on, any person and do not operate to bind
FDA or the public.
FDA has found that developing guidance is the fastest way to get these
types of recommendations to the industry, while allowing greater
flexibility to alter recommendations as science and intelligence
information changes. In matters such as these, industry generally
follows FDA's recommendations.
FDA accepts comments on any of these guidance documents at any time
and determines whether further revisions are appropriate. However, FDA
is requesting comments on the two draft guidance documents within 60
days of publication. FDA will consider these comments as it develops
the final guidance documents, which will be published in the Federal
(end excerpt)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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