You are here


Mission & Vision

Mission: Protecting the global food supply through research, education, and the delivery of innovative solutions. 
Vision: A safe, abundant food supply for all.

What is Food Defense?

"Food Defense" is the sum of actions and activities related to prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery of the food system from intentional acts of adulteration. This includes intentional adulteration from both terrorism and criminal activities. Criminal activities include economically motivated adulteration, as well as acts by disgruntled employees, consumers, or competitors intending to cause public health harm or business disruption.

"Food Safety" means food system reliability — reducing exposure to natural hazards, errors, or failures in the food system.

"Food Protection" is an umbrella term encompassing both "Food Defense" and "Food Safety."

"Food Security" as defined by the World Health Organization, is “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”.

Research Aims

FPDI's research aims are organized thematically. Our researchis conducted in collaborative efforts across multiple teams and organizations, are currently underway in these areas:

Agent Detection

Develops innovative detection, decontamination, and inactivation technologies using research on the fundamental behaviors of select chemical or biological agents in food. Research results provide guidance and capabilities to support public and private sector efforts to prevent and mitigate high-threat agents in the food supply.

Event Modeling

Develops dynamic, real-world models of both food contamination events and public health responses. These models rapidly identify sources of contamination, food distribution points, and possible outbreak locations, and can also demonstrate interventions and responses using novel communication systems and actual data from food distribution; food consumption, and epidemiologic studies.

Information Sharing

Improves information sharing among the individuals, agencies, and companies involved in protecting the global population from food contamination. It is an absolute requirement for identification of events and rapid response, which is often challenged by cultural, technological, and legal barriers.

Risk Analysis

Establishes innovative strategies to assess, manage, and mitigate risk in the food supply. As defined by the World Health Organization, risk analysis is made up of the three components to accomplish the risk-based management of hazards in food:  1) Risk assessment is the scientific evaluation of known or potential adverse health effects resulting from human exposure to foodborne hazards;  2) Risk management is the process of weighing policy alternatives to accept, minimize, or reduce assessed risks and to select and implement appropriate options; and 3) Risk communication is an interactive process of exchange of information and opinion on risk among risk assessors, risk managers, and other interested parties.

Supply Chain Security

Strengthens supply chains by understanding system vulnerabilities, rapidly identifying disruptions, assessing risks, prioritizing protection efforts, and analyzing supply chain interdependencies. The ultimate objective is to develop tools to improve how stakeholders and policy makers understand the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses of the local-to-global interconnected systems that enable the food supply chain.


FPDI's work extends beyond fundamental research by creating solutions that prepare and equip food and agriculture stakeholders for food protection incidents.


Offers curriculum innovation, workforce training programs, and undergraduate and graduate opportunities to increase awareness of food defense on a global scale, enhance the skill set of our current workforce, and train the next generation of food defense workers.

Innovative Technology and Tools

Creates solutions to transition research to end-users in an approachable and accessible way. Innovations include software, assessments, databases, knowledge products, tools, and a network of collaboration portals that connect professionals to each other and capabilities. 

Service Delivery

Delivers services to advance the profession through thought leadership and service projects. Includes the ability to host exercises, give consultations, create preparedness tools, and provide thought leadership.

Advisory Group

Industry Working Group (IWG)

Senior food industry officials and public health leaders provide the Institute with essential real-world expertise, guidance, and feedback.


Director: Amy Kircher, DrPH
Associate Director: Jennifer van de Ligt, PhD


Research and tools created with funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate are based on the following disclaimer.

"This research was developed under DHS Science and Technology Assistance Agreement No. 2010-ST-061-FD0001 awarded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It has not been formally reviewed by DHS. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security does not endorse any products or commercial services mentioned in this publication."