Global & Disaster Medicine

FDA: Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration


FDA takes new steps to protect food products from deliberate attacks

March 5, 2019

Media Inquiries

  Lindsay Haake

“The U.S. has one of the safest food supplies in the world. However, to keep it safe we must recognize that our foods can be vulnerable – not just from unintended contamination, but from those who would do us harm. We’ve taken steps to minimize the risk of an intentional attack on our food supply, and today we’re advancing new steps to help manufacturers implement additional activities that can help identify and mitigate the risk of intentional food adulteration. To secure these goals, in 2016 we put forth a rule outlining smart, risk-based steps food production facilities must implement to help protect our foods from acts of intentional adulteration. This is a serious issue that warrants serious attention and is why today we’re taking some additional steps to help ensure food facilities will implement the rule as effectively as possible,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “When it comes to modernizing our approach to food safety, our core aim is to shift the FDA’s focus from reacting to food safety problems to preventing them from occurring in the first place. To help secure this goal when it comes to the risk of intentional adulteration and acts of terrorism, today we’re providing additional draft guidance to help producers implement the rule’s protective standards, identify their biggest risks, and mitigate these risks from those who might try to use food products to cause deliberate harm to American consumers.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today released a revised draft guidance, “Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration: Guidance for Industry,” to support compliance with the intentional adulteration (IA) rule set forth under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

The IA rule is designed to address hazards that may be intentionally introduced to foods, including by acts of terrorism, with the intent to cause widespread harm to public health. Unlike the other FSMA rules that address specific foods or hazards, the IA rule requires certain facilities – both domestic facilities and foreign facilities that export to the U.S. – to develop and implement food defense plans that assesses their potential vulnerabilities to such acts of deliberate contamination.

The draft guidance issued today outlines two, flexible methods for how facilities can conduct vulnerability assessments to identify their areas of highest risk and provides information about requirements for education and training. This installment of the draft guidance includes all of the information in the first installment, including information on the Key Activity Type method to conduct vulnerability assessments, mitigation strategies, and food defense monitoring procedures, released in June 2018.

In the near future, the FDA also intends to provide a third installment of this draft guidance that will include additional information on corrective actions, verification, records maintenance, reanalysis requirements, and how to calculate small and very small business sizes in order to determine what requirements of the rule are applicable. When finalized, this draft guidance is intended to be a resource that will help the food industry implement the IA rule’s provisions in a flexible and cost-effective manner. For more information on this guidance, as well as instructions on how to submit comments, please visit


March 2019

Contains Nonbinding Recommendations

Draft-Not for Implementation

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) added to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) several new sections that reference intentional adulteration.  For example, section 418 of the FD&C Act (21 U.S.C. 350g) addresses intentional adulteration in the context of facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food, and that are required to register under section 415 (21 U.S.C. 350d).  Section 420 of the FD&C Act (21 U.S.C. 350i) addresses intentional adulteration in the context of high-risk foods and exempts farms except for farms that produce milk [2].

We implemented these intentional adulteration provisions through a rule entitled “Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration” (IA rule).We published the final rule in the Federal Register of May 27, 2016.  (81 FR 34166).

The rule, which includes the requirements for food defense measures against intentional adulteration, and related requirements, can be found in 21 CFR part 121, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Subparts Established in 21 CFR Part 121

 Subpart  Title
 A  General Provisions
 B  Reserved
 C  Food Defense Measures
 D  Requirements Applying to Records That Must Be Established and Maintained
 E  Compliance

As shown in Table 2 below, the amount of time we are allowing you to comply with the IA rule depends on your particular business.

Table 2. Compliance Dates for IA Rule Based on Size of Business

 Size of Business  Compliance Date
 Very Small  July 26, 2021
 Small  July 27, 2020
 Other businesses that do not qualify for exemptions  July 26, 2019

The IA rule applies to the owner, operator, or agent in charge of a domestic or foreign food facility that manufactures/processes, packs, or holds food for consumption in the United States and is required to register under section 415 of the FD&C Act, unless one of the exemptions provided in 21 CFR 121.5 applies.  (21 CFR 121.1).

Acts of intentional adulteration may take several forms: acts intended to cause wide scale public health harm, such as acts of terrorism focused on the food supply; acts of disgruntled employees, consumers, or competitors; and economically motivated adulteration (EMA).  Acts intended to cause wide scale public health harm are associated with intent to cause significant human morbidity and mortality. The other forms are typically not intended to cause wide scale public health harm, although some public health harm may occur because of the adulteration.  For example, acts of disgruntled employees, consumers, and competitors are generally intended to attack the reputation of a company, and EMA is intended to obtain economic gain.  In the spectrum of risk associated with intentional adulteration of food, attacks intended to cause wide scale public health harm to humans are ranked as the highest risk.  Therefore, the IA rule is focused on addressing those acts and not acts of disgruntled employees, consumers, or competitors, or acts of EMA [3].

This document is directed to those persons who are subject to the Intentional Adulteration (IA) requirements of 21 CFR part 121 (you).  Identifying significant vulnerabilities at your facility and implementing mitigation strategies and mitigation strategy management components enables you to apply a proactive and systematic approach to your food defense program to protect your food from intentional adulteration intended to cause wide scale public health harm.

This draft guidance, when finalized, will represent the current thinking of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on this topic. It does not establish any rights for any person and is not binding on FDA or the public. You can use an alternative approach if it satisfies the requirements of the applicable statutes and regulations.

Download the Draft Guidance for Industry

[1] This guidance has been prepared by the Office of Analytics and Outreach, Food Defense and Emergency Coordination Staff, in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

[2] The IA rule did not include any requirements for farms that produce milk. As such, farms that produce milk are not covered under this draft guidance.

[3] As we noted in the final rule, the protections required by the rule will help minimize the likelihood of success of a disgruntled employee, consumer, or competitor who attempts an act of intentional adulteration at an actionable process step—even if that act is not intended to cause wide scale public health harm. (81 FR at 34183).

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