Thompson: Food Supply Easy to Attack

Dec 06, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson says there is reason for alarm. The nation’s food supply is far from safe.

Last week, in remarks made after announcing his resignation, Mr. Thompson said, “For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do.”

Mr. Thompson said only “a very minute amount” of food imported to the U.S. is ever inspected. While the agency has increased the number of inspectors under Mr. Thompson, there are not enough to handle the job.

The lack of inspectors is having a direct impact on retailers importing food from overseas. A report in the East Bay Business Times says food imports are being held up at ports waiting to be inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The shipments have been cleared by Customs but, because the cargo is food, the FDA must also sign off on its release.

Pat Saucy, chief financial officer of A.G. Ferrari Foods, a 13-store specialty food retailer headquartered in San Leandro, Calif., said the holdup “has hurt us financially.” Mr. Saucy told the East Bay Business Times that about 90 percent of the seasonal items his company imported for sale this holiday season have been stuck in the Port of Oakland since Nov. 19.

Moderator’s Comment: What is your perspective on the safety of the nation’s food supply and steps that need to be taken to secure it?

President Bush, in response to Tommy Thompson’s remarks, said, “We’re a large country, with all kinds of avenues where somebody could inflict harm. We’ve
made a lot of progress in protecting our country, and there’s more work to be done, and this administration is committed to doing that.”

George Anderson – Moderator

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