Magazine article National Defense

Coordination Needed for Food Emergencies

Magazine article National Defense

Coordination Needed for Food Emergencies

Article excerpt

There is no way to guarantee the safety of U.S. food and agricultural products, and confusion within governmental agencies may slow down response time should supply chains be attacked, said one expert.

"I think there's a perception out there that we should be able to say 'this agency is responsible at all times for the safety and security for our food and agriculture system.' [But] that simply is not the case," Dave Filson, emergency preparedness and response coordinator for the Penn State Cooperative Extension, said at a Capitol Hill briefing. "Our ability to ensure with zero risk that our food and agricultural system is absolutely, positively protected is something we cannot do."

He pointed to last year's outbreak of E. coil, which killed three people and sickened hundreds. The bacteria were traced back to spinach grown in California and sold with little processing. That risk was contained quickly, he said, but what would happen if the nation's food or agricultural system were deliberately tampered with?

Although there is a substantial response plan in place, Filson said that communication among agencies could always be better. In the event of a food emergency, agencies on the local, state and federal level could potentially be involved, from the county emergency management agencies to the Department of Homeland Security. …

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