WASHINGTON -- Industry associations have joined with government officials of all levels in a thorough review and upgrade of safety procedures, following the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes in New York and Washington.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, among others, have been quietly meeting with a number of food organizations to review the security of procedures relating to importation, processing and transportation. The review is ongoing, according to officials, and only came to light very recently.
In some cases, industry organizations have taken the initiative and approached government officials with a request the Bush administration take steps to protect the country's food supply from deliberate biological or chemical contamination. One coalition called on officials to appoint a specialist within the newly created Office of Homeland Security, who will focus solely on coordinating plans that safeguard the nation's food supply.
One opinion gaining a consensus is the need to immediately increase the number of FDA food inspectors, especially for imported items -- most of which still enter the country uninspected, critics have long charged. The problem is compounded by the quick pace of global food sourcing, they added.
Congress is due this month to begin debate over several measures focusing on the security of the domestic food inventory. Several pieces of proposed legislation directly seek to remedy the threat from imported food and food ingredients.