In an effort to safeguard the U.S. food supply, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended on Tuesday that the food industry — everyone from farmers and fishermen to importers to restaurateurs — must step up security to protect the nation’s food supply.

The FDA releases two “guidance” documents that contain recommendations that food industry members can use to help ensure terrorists don’t gain access to the food supply. Although not required by law, the recommendations may become regulations in the future.

Here are a few of the recommendations listed in the guidance documents:

  • Restrict access to food handling and storage areas, laboratories, lab materials and computer control systems.
  • Screen employees and all new hires. Perform criminal background checks as well as checking the FBI watchlist and immigration status. FDA recommends this step for farms as well as food companies.
  • Issue photo identification badges to workers with individual control numbers and color codes to indicate access to authorized areas.
  • Restrict personal items allowed into the workplace.
  • Watch for unusual behavior by employees.
  • All ingredients, compressed gas, packaging and labels should come from known and licensed sources.
  • Secure water wells and hydrants and test water sources regularly for their safety.
  • Monitor salad bars and foods on open display.
  • Inspect facilities routinely and randomly.
  • Encourage employees to be alert for suspicious activity.
  • Secure mailrooms and visually examine or x-ray incoming mail.

While the food industry has had increased concerns about tampering with the food supply since September 11, many facilities have already begun implementing tighter security measures since that day, says Rona Applebaum, executive vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the National Food Processors Association in Washington, DC.

“What we have been doing since September 11 is telling our members to ratchet up security,” said Applebaum. For instance many companies have been spending more energy securing their facility, verifying credentials of suppliers and increasing background checks on new employees. “Trust by verify,” is the motto, she said.

Reuters, Associated Press