USDA Continues efforts to safeguard the nation’s food supply
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2006 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced additional efforts in collaboration with states and private industry to protect the nation’s food supply from terrorist threats.
“Ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply remains a top priority for President Bush and USDA,” said Dr. Richard Raymond, USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to work with our federal, state and private sector partners so that we can keep our agricultural commodities safe.”
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will conduct five critical food defense exercises this year. The first exercise will take place in Alameda, Calif. on Jan. 18 and 19. These exercises are designed to practice reporting a non-routine incident while coordinating with all levels of government, non-governmental agencies and the private sector in an incident command system structure. These exercises will challenge all participants to collaborate more closely and become better prepared to keep the food supply safe.
The first day of the exercise will focus on non-routine incident reporting and how program offices would manage an emergency and the second day will focus on product recall and public health and communication issues. Additionally, FSIS will test its ability to coordinate with organizations outside of USDA, such as the local and state departments of health and agriculture, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as the affected industries.
Additional food defense exercises will be conducted in Raleigh, N.C., March 22-23; Chicago, Ill., May 17-18; Minneapolis, Minn., July 19-20; and Albany, N.Y., Sept. 20-21. FSIS will eventually conduct similar exercises in all 15 FSIS regional district offices.
In July 2005, USDA announced the Strategic Partnership Program Agroterrorism (SPPA) Initiative, which supports President Bush’s requirements directing the government to work closely with states and industry to secure the nation’s food supply. In December, the first pilot visit was conducted by USDA’s Farm Service Agency and Grain Inspection, Packers and Sotckyards Administration in cooperation with FDA and the grain export elevatorindustry in New Orleans, La. The purpose of these visits is to assess and identify vulnerabilities in the agriculture and food sectors. In March, USDA and FDA will jointly assess frozen foods in Wisconsin and Florida. Also in March, USDA will conduct an assessment on swine with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the National and Iowa Pork Producers. Currently, the results of grain export elevator industry assessment are being evaluated.
In order to “respond quickly and effectively to a terrorist attack, a major disease outbreak, or other disaster affecting national agriculture and food infrastructure,” the White House issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) 9. HSPD-8 requires that all federal, state and local response capabilities are adequate. The Incident Command System was established in response to HSPD 5, which requires that the federal government and states have a comprehensive approach to emergency management and coordinate the efforts of individual agencies as they work toward the common goal of stabilizing the incident and protecting both public health and food supply.
Additional information about agrosecurity can be found on USDA’s Web site at www.usda.gov/homelandsecurity.
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