A new rule to protect the nation's food supply from terrorism has been introduced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency announced Friday.
The proposed rule would require the largest food businesses in the United States and in other nations to take steps to protect facilities from attempts to contaminate the food supply.
The FDA said it does not know of any cases where the food supply was intentionally tainted with the aim of inflicting widespread harm, and added that such events are unlikely to occur. However, the new rule is a preventive measure that would help ensure the safety of the food supply.
"The goal is to protect the food supply from those who may attempt to cause large-scale public health harm," Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said in an agency news release.
"Such events, while unlikely to occur, must be taken seriously because they have the potential to cause serious public health and economic consequences. The FDA's goal is to devise an approach that effectively protects the food supply in a practical, cost-effective manner," he explained.
The proposed rule is the sixth issued this year by the FDA under the Food Safety Modernization Act, which is meant to improve the safety of foods made in the United States and those imported into the country.
Under the proposed rule, food facilities would be required to have written food defense plans to correct major security weaknesses in their food production processes.
Staggered implementation dates for the rule would be based on business size, and range from one year to three years after the rule in finalized, the FDA said. The proposed rule is open to public comment until March 31, 2014.