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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Food Defense

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Why is this initiative necessary?

The food supply is part of the Nation's critical infrastructure and contributes about 20 percent to the U.S. Gross National Product. A terrorist attack on the food supply could have catastrophic public health and economic consequences. The funds requested would continue to improve laboratory preparedness and food defense field operations, food defense research, surveillance, and incident management capabilities. Through this initiative, FDA will enhance its capacity to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and mitigate the effects of a terrorist attack, a major disaster or other emergency on the food supply.

The requested increases will allow FDA to:

  • Continue to establish the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN), a national network to increase analytic surge capacity in the event of terrorist attack. FERN is designed to ensure adequate laboratory testing capacity for biological, chemical and radiological threats.
  • Continue field support of food defense operations.
  • Conduct targeted food defense research efforts by focusing on food counterterrorism technologies, laboratory methods development, and infectious dose thresholds for food contaminated with bioterror agents.
  • Improve coordination and integration of food surveillance capabilities with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the government-wide Bio-Surveillance Initiative.
  • Upgrade Crisis Incident Management capabilities.

Additionally, FDA will continue to dedicate base resources to targeted risk-based inspections using FDA's Prior-Notice Center (PNC), as authorized in the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness Act of 2002 (the Bioterrorism Act).


 Food Defense Historical Funding 1
  FY 2005 (estimate) FY 2006 (enacted) FY 2007 Increase FY 2007


$20,954,000 $24,528,000 $990,000 $25,518,000


$121,425,000 $125,337,000 $17,398,000 $142,735,000

Other Activities (OC)

$1,488,000 $1,473,000 $1,485,000 $2,958,000


$1,165,000 $1,153,000 -- $1,153,000


$3,517,000 $3,482,000 -- $3,482,000


$1,403,000 $2,379,000 -- $2,379,000


$149,952,000 $158,352,000 $19,873,000 $178,225,000


52 59 -- 59


680 684 4 688

Other Activities

2 2 2 4


8 8 -- 8


35 35 -- 35


1 1 -- 1


778 789 6 795

1 Includes base funding appropriated in the FY 2002 Emergency Supplemental.


How does this initiative support Executive Branch public health priorities?

As a component of an interagency effort involving DHS, USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service, and other government agencies, FDA's Food Defense Initiative is critical to the President's Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-9 goal of "providing the best protection possible against a successful attack on the U.S. agriculture and food system" Specifically, this initiative supports the HSPD-9 food defense objectives of developing awareness and early warning capabilities, mitigating vulnerabilities, enhancing screening procedures, and enhancing response and recovery procedures.

FDA's food defense effort also meets the objectives of HSPD-5, HSPD-7, HSPD-8, and HSPD-10 by enhancing the Nation's capacity to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from attacks, disasters, and emergencies. Finally, these activities are also consistent with Secretary Leavitt's 500-Day Priority of securing the homeland, and they align with the HHS Strategic Goal of enhancing the ability of the Nation's health care system to respond effectively to bioterrorism and other public health challenges.

What are the risks of not proceeding with the initiative?

Safeguarding the food supply is an increasingly complex responsibility, in large part because the volume of imported food shipments is growing dramatically and because the food system is extensive, open and at risk of contamination. Armed with new authorities under the Bioterrorism Act, FDA has made progress in improving the safety of the food supply and in addressing vulnerabilities in the food system.

The failure to adequately fund food defense research, conduct vulnerability assessments, biosurveillance activities, support FERN and critical Field food defense operations, and upgrade the agency's emergency crisis/incident management capabilities will limit FDA's ability to shield the food supply and provide adequate laboratory capacity to rapidly analyze food samples for the presence of threat agents. In short, the failure to provide this funding will compromise FDA's awareness of, and effective response to, an attack on the food supply.

What activities will these funds support?

FDA requests funding for the following Food Defense activities:

  • Cooperative agreements with State laboratories to support participation in the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN), a nationwide network of Federal and State laboratories capable of testing foods for biological, chemical, and radiological contamination. The FERN network builds vital analytic surge capacity for responding to a terrorist attack on food.
  • Support for FERN laboratories through validated food testing methods, proficiency testing samples, training programs for laboratory personnel, and coordinated communications and reporting through the Electronic Laboratory Exchange Network (eLEXNET), which provides the ability to detect, compare, and communicate unusual findings from laboratory analyses about food-borne pathogens..
  • Support the Field's risk-based food imports operations, including efforts to continue to monitor food imports through PNC/Prior Notice Import Security Reviews, intelligence information, records of FDA inspections, discrepancies in Prior Notice submissions, and other data and information on foods that pose the highest potential terrorism risks.
  • Short-term research projects to address data gaps identified through vulnerability assessments.
  • Improvements to existing surveillance and detection systems, as appropriate, to integrate reporting into a comprehensive national biosurveillance system.
  • A comprehensive system for managing food-related emergencies and incidents through integration of multiple data streams to produce actionable information.

What results will FDA achieve?

Foods Field and Lab Preparedness Activities +$15,400,000

  • Expand the FERN system to include a total of 16 State laboratories, provide cooperative agreements and technical support to these laboratories, and build analytic surge capacity to respond to a terrorist attack. By 2007, there will be a total of 26 FERN labs in operation (10 existing Federal and 16 funded by cooperative agreements with States).
  • Manage, through the National Program Office, FERN's ability to respond for a terrorist attack on (or threat to) the food supply or other food-related emergency by creating capability in FERN laboratories through training and proficiency testing.
  • Enhance lab preparedness activities, including CFSAN laboratories that are part of FERN.
  • Accelerate the validation of the microbiological and chemical methods currently being developed forinclusion in the FERN system.
  • Continue Field support of food defense operations, including the targeting of potentially high-risk imported foods through Prior Notice Import Security Reviews based on intelligence, FDA inspection reports, discrepancies in prior notice reporting and sample collection and analysis.

Food Defense Research +$513,000

  • Conduct research to address data gaps identified during vulnerability assessments. Develop reagents for joint food defense and food safety assignments.

Office of Crisis Management-Emergency Operations Network (EON) +$1,485,000

  • Enhance FDA's EON capability to provide incident tracking and coordinated information management through knowledge management tools and a Geographic Information System mapping and impact assessment.

Biosurveillance-Field +$2,475,000

  • Based on existing eLEXNET and FERN systems to capture data, develop nationally recognized standards for integrating analytical reporting into a comprehensive national biosurveillance system.


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