FDA releases software to aid food facility defense

June 18, 2007

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a new tool to help growers, packers, processors, manufacturers, warehousers, transporters and retailers in the food industry determine the vulnerability of individual food facilities to biological, chemical or radiological attack.

The software program, called the CARVER + Shock Software Tool, is a science-based prevention strategy to safeguard the food supply. This tool is an example of the type of approach currently being developed as part of a broader food protection strategy currently under development by FDA.

“FDA's goal in developing the CARVER + Shock software is to maximize protection of the American food supply,” said FDA Assistant Commissioner for Food Protection David Acheson, M.D. "The relative risk-ranking methodology used by the CARVER + Shock software tool has been designed to assist facility operators in identifying potential vulnerabilities and assist in providing preventive measures to increase the defense of products and operations."

CARVER + Shock was developed by FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, in collaboration with Sandia National Laboratories, the Institute of Food Technologists, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, National Center for Food Protection and Defense, State representatives and private industry representatives.

The name of the risk assessment software is derived from the acronym CARVER, which refers to six attributes used to evaluate targets for attack.

  • Criticality: What impact would an attack have on public health and the economy?
  • Accessibility: How easily can a terrorist access a target?
  • Recuperability: How well could a system recover from an attack?
  • Vulnerability: How easily could an attack be accomplished?
  • Effect: What would be the direct loss from an attack, as measured by loss in production?
  • Recognizability: How easily could a terrorist identify a target?

The CARVER tool also evaluates a seventh attribute — the psychological impacts of an attack or “shock” attributes of a target. For example, the psychological impact tends to be greater when a large number of deaths is involved or if the target has historical or cultural significance.

CARVER + Shock is the latest in a series of food defense efforts by FDA following the terrorist attacks of September 2001. Since then, FDA has worked closely with its partners in federal, state and local government, and with the food industry to assess existing food defense measures and augment them for improved protection.

One such effort, the Strategic Partnership Program Agroterrorism Initiative, helps identify sector-specific vulnerabilities, determine research gaps and needs, and increase coordination between the federal government and industry stakeholders.

In 2006, FDA launched the ALERT Initiative, designed to raise industry awareness of food defense and preparedness issues. CARVER + Shock builds on ALERT, and allows a more formal and detailed food defense assessment.

To see a consumer article called CARVER + Shock: Enhancing Food Defense, visit www.fda.gov/consumer/updates/carvershock061107.html

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