HHS, FDA Implement Food Security Research Program
A new $5 million research program will help the Food and Drug Administration develop technologies and strategies to minimize potential threats to the safety and security of the nation's food supply.
"Americans need to feel secure that the food they eat is safe and healthy," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said in announcing the program in July. "We are investing unprecedented time, energy and resources to make sure the food that goes from our nation's ports and food facilities to our families' dinner tables is safe."
Announcement of the research program coincided with the release of an FDA report highlighting the progress made toward enhancing the safety and security of the roughly 80 percent of the nation's food supply under its jurisdiction.
The new report, submitted to Thompson by FDA Commissioner Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., discusses the agency's progress in making the food supply more secure in 10 critical areas.
For example, during fiscal year 2003, the FDA has done five times the number of imported food examinations it conducted during fiscal year 2001--62,000 inspections completed so far this year, compared with 12,000 in all of fiscal 2001.
The increase in inspections reflects a steep increase in the number of U.S. ports of entry with FDA staff, from 40 to 90. Also figuring into the increase were the FDA's intense efforts during a period of heightened security alert earlier this year, and collaboration with other government agencies to protect the food supply more efficiently.
This progress stems in large measure from the $96 million increase in the agency's food-security budget during fiscal years 2002 and 2003. The additional resources allowed the FDA to hire 655 new field personnel that work almost exclusively on food security and food safety.
"We will continue to maximize our efforts to give Americans the most protection possible from deliberate or accidental food risks," McClellan says. "That includes not only using the best ideas that science has to offer, but seeking out still better ideas and methods."
The $5 million in new research funding is being made available from a post-9/11 emergency response fund, allocated by the Office of Management and Budget. …