Mitigation Strategies Database

Bottles going through a factory machine.

The Food Defense Mitigation Strategies Database (MSD) is one of several tools developed by the FDA for the food industry to help protect our nation’s food supply from deliberate acts of contamination or tampering. This resource is designed for companies that produce, process, store, package, distribute, and/or transport food or food ingredients. The MSD provides a range of preventive measures that companies may choose to implement to better protect their facility, personnel, products, and operations.


The FDA is committed to improving the safety and security of the food and cosmetic supply. In 2007 FDA published five guidance documents detailing security preventative measures for all components of the food supply chain, including cosmetics processors and transporters. More recently, FDA has made available food defense tools which allow companies to conduct vulnerability assessments, and determine suitable mitigation approaches.

3 Key Steps to Food Defense

1. Conducting a vulnerability assessment

CARVER + Shock is one example of a vulnerability assessment tool which will help industries, States, and Multi-State Consortia build a safer, less vulnerable food supply chain.

2. Identifying appropriate mitigation strategies

The FDA has developed a searchable Food Defense Mitigation Strategies Database that:

  • Focuses on agriculture, manufacturing, and retail/foodservice
  • Contains a range of preventative measures for industry to consider
  • Data can be easily searched by key words, or nodes, commonly used within the agriculture and commercial/retail food industries (i.e. harvesting, production, distribution)
  • Suggested mitigation strategies were compiled from guidance documents, peer-reviewed literature, and industry input.

See examples of how to use the Food Defense Mitigations Strategies Database.

3. Implementing a mitigation approach

Implement preventative measures that may reduce the likelihood of an attack. MSD offers numerous mitigation strategies for the various vulnerabilities identified ranging in complexity and cost. Each company should select the appropriate mitigations that best fit the company’s needs.

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Questions and Answers 

What is food defense?
Food defense is the effort to protect the nation’s food supply from intentional acts of contamination or tampering. Food defense differs from food safety, which is protecting against the accidental contamination of food. Intentional contamination can be in the form of chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear agents. While intentional contamination is typically thought of only in terms of a foreign terrorist threat, there are other threats for intentional contamination, including disgruntled employees, domestic terrorists/activist organizations, economic adulteration, and counterfeiting/diversion/tampering.

What is a vulnerability assessment?
In food safety there are "hazards" to accidental contamination, in food defense there are "vulnerabilities" to intentional contamination. In calculating risk of intentional threat, the common measure of vulnerability is the likelihood that an attack is successful, if it is attempted. By conducting a vulnerability assessment of a food production facility or process, you can determine the most vulnerable points in the infrastructure and focus resources on the most susceptible points in the system to mitigate against the threat of intentional contamination. The FDA has developed a software tool to help conduct vulnerability assessments. The CARVER + Shock software program is a prioritization tool that can be used to assess the vulnerabilities within a system or infrastructure in the food industry.  

Are food defense plans required?
Currently, food defense plans are voluntary. However, FDA encourages all food facilities to develop and implement a food defense plan. A food defense plan will help you maintain a safe working environment for your employees, provide a quality product to your customers, and protect your bottom line. As a part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by the President on January 4, 2011, there will be additional requirements with regard to food defense. The FDA is currently working on developing regulations to codify the Act and more information regarding those requirements will be included in the regulations.

What are mitigation strategies?
Mitigation strategies are preventive measures that companies may choose to implement in an effort to better protect their facility, personnel, and operations from identified vulnerabilities. Mitigation strategies may be implemented all along the food production process, from basic agriculture, to food processing, distribution, and retail.
How many mitigation strategies do I have to use?

It is recommended that you conduct a personalized vulnerability assessment of your facility and implement the appropriate number of mitigation strategies to ensure the foods produced in your facility are safe and secured.

Do you know who to call to report a suspicious activity?

  • Phone the FDA Main Emergency Number at 866-300-4374 or phone the Consumer Complaint Coordinator for your state or area. For general information, see Questions and Answers: Problem Reporting (FDA).
  • The Reportable Food Registry (RFR or the Registry) is an electronic portal for Industry to report when there is reasonable probability that an article of food will cause serious adverse health consequences. The Registry helps the FDA better protect public health by tracking patterns and targeting inspections. The Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 (Pub. L.110-085), section 1005 directs the FDA to establish a Reportable Food Registry for Industry. (Food and Agriculture Sector-Specific Plan 2010)
  • For pet food and animal feed, see How to Report a Pet Food Complaint (FDA) Guidelines.

Does FDA have information available to assist facilities in developing a food defense plan?

What is ALERT?
ALERT is an awareness tool for managers, owners and operators of food establishments about the security of your facilities. It's an acronym:
A – Assure supplies are safe
L – Look after products in your facility
E – Employees / personnel in and out of the facility
R – Reports that can be produced on your supplies
T – Threat reporting processes in place

What is Employees FIRST?
Employees FIRST is an FDA initiative that food industry managers can include in their ongoing employee food defense training programs. Employees FIRST educates front-line food industry workers from farm to table about the risk of intentional food contamination and the actions they can take to identify and reduce these risks. 

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Page Last Updated: 06/17/2014
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