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Plenary Session

Bio-Terrorism Regulations and Your Safety


Desmond Brown- Supervisory Consumer Safety Officer, Division of Food Defense Targeting, FDA

Identifying imported foods that might be intentionally contaminated with biological or chemical agents continues to be of significant concern to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To help mitigate the risk of hazardous foods reaching U.S. consumers, the Division of Food Defense Targeting (DFDT) uses a risk-based screening tool to target, intercept, and prevent high-risk imported food products from entering the country. Given the quantity of foods imported each year; any incident involving the use of hazardous agents to attack the U.S. food supply could inflict significant economic damage, instill fear in consumers, and lower confidence in U.S. food safety. Hence, the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 was enacted. The Bioterrorism Act requires food facilities engage in manufacturing, packing, or holding food for consumption in the U.S. to register with FDA. Among other things, the Act requires FDA to receive prior notifications of all imported food shipments before they arrive in the U.S. Using risk-based screening criteria, the DFDT targets firms, countries, products, and other Prior Notice (PN) data elements to identify terrorist threats to FDA-regulated imported foods. Criteria are dynamic and can be easily changed to target the riskiest food shipments based on credible intelligence of products being adulterated with poisonous ingredients, target of terrorism, or other serious criminal activities. From time to time, foods produced in facilities that have been impacted by disaster are targeted for vigorous PN screening. During FY 2017, FDA screened approximately 15 million PNs against high-risk criteria. Most notable are the 81,000 high-risk PNs the DFDT manually reviewed to determine association with terrorist organizations. The DFDT refused more than 700 shipments for PN violations. To help mitigate the risk of unsafe foods reaching U.S. consumers, the DFDT screens and vets PN data of high-risk imported food shipments for signs of intentional adulteration by terrorists.

Brief bio: Desmond Brown joined the FDA Division of Food Defense Targeting about 8 years ago. He started his career with the FDA as a Consumer Safety Officer/Reviewer and after 3 years he was promoted to a Supervisory Consumer Safety Officer. His responsibilities include; reviewing data of high-risk imported food shipments for possible links to Bioterrorism to minimize the risk of serious illnesses or death from intentionally contaminated food shipments that enter the USA commerce.  He also investigates firms and entities that violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act under the prior notice regulations [section 801(m)] and food facility registrations [801(l)].

Before joining FDA, Desmond Brown worked with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for eight years. Some of his duties included, investigating and disqualifying grocery store owners who exchanging food stamp benefits for cash from participating into the food stamp program.  He also inspected imported agriculture and animal products to prevent the introduction and spread of harmful foreign pests into the United States.

Originally from Jamaica, Desmond Brown migrated to the United States in 1991. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1999 with a M.S. in Horticulture and from Cornell University 1997 with a B.S. in Plant Science.

When he is not working to protect public health, he enjoys spending his time watching soccer, reading, tutoring math, or preparing for his upcoming Toastmasters meetings.

Earlier Event: May 23
Plenary Session
Later Event: May 23
Plenary Session