The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a new set of guidelines intended to cover the entire US food supply, from farm to fork, against the threat of a bio-terrorist attack.

The guidelines, which come into effect today [Wednesday] include a list of safety measures and precautions to be followed by food processors, retailers, farmers and hauliers. There are two sets of guidelines, for importers and domestic producers, and while they are not legally binding, the recommendations are classed as regulation and thus become standards customarily adhered to by companies.

Joe Levitt, head of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety, told the Wall Street Journal that the guidelines are “an effort to get a consistent blueprint that any company can follow”.

In a summary, the FDA commented that it “believes it is critical to our national interest and the public health to make guidance on food security available to the food industry quickly.”

The measures in place to increase food security at US plants include; checking job applicants against a federal list of known criminals; establishing checking procedures for suspicious additions to imports and signs of tampering; inspections on suspicious and unsolicited vehicles and visitors, and placing restrictions on laboratory and computer control systems access.

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With regard to checking employees, companies have been advised to prevent the bringing of personal lunches of affects into the workplace, to inspect employee’s lockers and vehicles, to watch out for unusual behaviour and to learn which workers are on which shifts, so becoming aware of when employees are arriving unusually early or staying suspiciously late.

Importers, meanwhile, have been told to check employees for their immigrant status, to color code uniforms by work area, to inspect worker’s lockers, bags or vehicles, and authenticate imports in terms of labelling and product codes.