WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture have created an on-line tool to help farmers and producers assess and mitigate vulnerabilities in their production processes.

The risk assessment tool, which is called Agriculture CARVER + Shock, is designed to help the food industry at the farm level to implement food production security methods. The software is free and available at www.fda.gov/Food/FoodDefense/CARVER.

The Carver + Shock program is part of food safety and defense efforts the F.D.A. has developed since September 2001, and the latest risk assessment tool comes a little more than two years after the F.D.A. introduced the Carver + Shock Software Tool.

"This assessment tool helps the producer understand how an attacker might think," said Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the F.D.A.’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "Producers can easily identify weak spots in their operation and receive practical advice on countermeasures they can put in place."

As part of the on-line tool offered by the F.D.A., producers are asked a series of questions about each component of their production process. Based on the responses, Ag Carver provides scores for those components and specific risk mitigation measures are recommended. These might include upgrades or enhancements to physical security, process operations, or a change in personnel practices. Information entered by the program user is not recorded by either the F.D.A. or APHIS.

The risk assessment tool derives its name from seven designated attributes for evaluation:

• Criticality: What impact would an intentional attack have on public health or to the economy?

• Accessibility: How easily can a terrorist get to this target?

• Recuperability: How well could a system recover from an attack?

• Vulnerability: How easily could an attack be accomplished?

• Effect: What would be the direct loss from an attack, as measured by loss in production?

• Recognizability: How easily could a terrorist identify a target?

• Shock: What would be the psychological impact of an attack?