Protect your food product from intentional harm with ALERT system

Small and large business owners can implement strategies to protect their food product from intentional contamination with ALERT, which deals with suppliers, inventory, staff, security and threat response.

The Michigan Food Law provides guidance for producing safe food and reducing the likelihood of accidental contamination of food products. Food defense, however, focuses on minimizing intentional food contamination.

In response to increased reports of intentional food contamination, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration developed the ALERT Food Defense Awareness program. This program identifies five key points that industry and businesses can voluntarily use to decrease the risk of intentional contamination of their food product.  ALERT stands for Assure, Look, Employees, Reports and Threat.


Assure encourages companies to be assured that they know their suppliers well so they are assured that the supplies and ingredients they receive in or purchase and bring in are from safe and secure sources.


Look refers to looking after the security of the products and ingredients once they have been purchased and in the businesses possession. Companies can do this by tracking materials, storing product labels in a secure location and destroying old labels, implementing a system for product handling, and tracking finished product.


In the ALERT system Employee is a critical component of the defense program. A company needs to conduct background checks on future employees, establish employee identification tags, know when employees come in and out of the facility, and limit access to key areas. A company also needs to limit and control visitors coming in and out of their facility.


Reports guides companies to be prepared to provide reports on the security of their products through random food defense inspections and the establishment and maintenance of records.


Finally, threat in ALERT ensures that a company knows what to do and who to notify if they have a threat or issue at their company. In the case of a suspected contamination, companies need to have a system for holding their product that may be affected and how to contact the authorities.

Through a partnership between Michigan State University Extension, the MSU Product Center, and the MSU HACCP Team, entrepreneurs are provided product and business development assistance as they work to commercialize their food product. For more information, visit the MSU Product Center website or call 517-432-8750.

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