Food Defense Assessment Tool

Dear Food Industry member,

Thank you for being proactive with respect to food defense concerns. The document that follows was designed as an educational tool to heighten your awareness of food defense issues and assist in developing a food defense plan for your operation. Recent events have emphasized the importance of protecting the food system, necessitating more attention to food and food handling than ever before.

This tool, developed by the Institute of Food Technologists on behalf of the National Center for Food Protection and Defense, should be used as a starting point for food defense discussions within your operation. In most cases, several individuals with varying expertise should be involved in the discussion. It is a generic document to help guide you through process; however, each facility is unique and needs to be assessed based on its characteristics.

The questions are sorted by category and the overarching objective for each set of questions is indicated. The questions asked under “Basic Practices” are primary considerations. Companies should generally be implementing these “best practices” when applicable. In some cases, italicized subquestions are provided for additional consideration and clarification. At the end of each category “additional safeguards” are provided. These questions suggest actions above and beyond the basic level.
A glossary of relevant terms is provided as an appendix. Should you desire additional information, there are a number of resources at your disposal. A list of such resources is also provided and you are encouraged to seek more information as you work through the tool and identify needs specific to your facility.

Answering “yes” to every question does not guarantee that a facility is immune from a contamination event. Additionally, answering “no” to some questions may not indicate a breach in security and finally, some questions may not be applicable to your facility or situation. This is not a pass/fail assessment, no score is calculated; however, “no” answers may suggest that further investigation is needed and a written corrective action plan may need to be developed.

This assessment is for your use in your facility and there is no request to share the results. Once completed, you may want to take precautions for handling the completed document.

Thank you again for taking food defense seriously. We hope you find the attached tool useful in highlighting key points to protect the food supply.

Food Defense Assessment


Recent events have emphasized the importance of protecting the food supply from both accidental and intentional contamination. It is critical going forward to coordinate food safety/defense efforts to provide the best protection possible. Homeland Security Presidential Directive 9 placed strong emphasis on this effort.

According to the U.S. government “Food defense is the collective term used by the FDA, USDA, DHS, etc. to encompass activities associated with protecting the nation's food supply from deliberate or intentional acts of contamination or tampering. This term encompasses other similar verbiage (i.e., bioterrorism (BT), counter-terrorism (CT), etc.)”. A Food Defense PLAN is a document that each company and/or operation should prepare and use to guide best practices implemented to control/reduce the potential for such an event to occur at their respective operation(s) and thereby reduce the overall vulnerability of such an operation to contamination.

Guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for preparation of a food defense plan can be found at:

And guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can be found at:

Basic elements that a plan should contain include perimeter and facility security, personnel practices, product protection (including receiving, processing, distribution, response and recovery). Each of these areas will be considered as you progress through this assessment.

Download the Food Defense Plan (PDF)

Download the Food Defense Plan

Objective: to develop a comprehensive program that will minimize the potential for intentional contamination of a specific food product/facility.

Download a PDF version of the Food Defense Plan