Will $7 Million More Protect the Food Supply

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Mar 24, 2005
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By Ronald Margulis


U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns pledged an additional $7 million to help protect the nation’s food supply in front of 2,000 food manufacturers, food processors, restaurant executives and food retailers gathered at last week’s Food Safety Summit in Washington, DC.


On the final morning of the Summit, Mr. Johanns said, “Two million dollars will be redirected to the study of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, known as Mad Cow Disease, and $5 million will be awarded by USDA facilities with the express purpose of promoting food safety. The funds would be in addition to the $600 million that USDA is permitted to spend under anti-terrorist legislation.


FDA Commissioner-Designate Les Crawford, confirmed by a Congressional committee last week, also addressed the audience and described his plans for advancing food safety as he takes the helm at the Food and Drug Administration.


Moderator’s Comment: We asked this same question after last year’s summit — Is the food supply safer now that it was one year ago? Will it be safer
one year from now?


Last year, I wrote that the food supply was no better or worse than it was the previous year. Not much has changed to make me alter my opinion. And the
$7 million pledged by USDA is less than a drop in the bucket when looking at the need for improved food security measures.

Ronald Margulis – Moderator

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9 Comments on "Will $7 Million More Protect the Food Supply"


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Tom Zatina
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Tom Zatina
15 years 11 months ago

I just do not see where the food supply is really any more protected than it was. Too many holes and too many opportunities that may never be adequately addressed even another year from now.

Falco Witkamp
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Falco Witkamp
15 years 11 months ago

With a high percentage of our retail chicken still bearing salmonella, with slaughter houses being inspected infrequently and food workers not consistently knowledgeable about the basics of sanitation, it is a wonder that more Americans are not suffering from food borne illnesses. Although bio-terrorism grabs the headlines, the real threat is from a non-cohesive Federal food safety regimen and oversight by a disparate group of regulatory bodies. Let us aspire to a strict code of training and enforcement as seen in some northern European countries. The price of the loss of consumer confidence (e.g. Food Lion or Jack in the Box) is far greater than the cost of a little extra diligence and training.

Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
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Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
15 years 11 months ago

There has not been much change in the last year. Basically, manufacturers have improved their security to entry, but that is about it. If anyone wanted to tamper with the food supply, it would be a pretty easy task.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 11 months ago

I generally agree with Ron on most things, and do so this time as well. $7 million? A clear signal that it is not a priority to the government.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 11 months ago

Five million well spent could go along way, handled properly, in promoting food safety. This is good. Since it’s likely that no amount of funds available would get the agency to the level of inspection that is really necessary to set a level of certainty, then the choices to spend to promote is a good thing. I believe that is where the most gain is possible. Even if you did spend the dollars necessary to get to a percentage of certainty, I don’t think we’d gain much.

A priority of the federal government? Well, certainly it’s a priority along with millions of other initiatives. The real priority belongs with the consumers and the industry, not the government. The government can lead. Industry must do the work. They have the most at stake. The consuming public could make it a higher priority of both rather easily.

Laurie Cozart
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Laurie Cozart
15 years 11 months ago

It seems that this issue is falling further down the list of priorities. Seven million dollars is not much to fill in the gaps of training and personnel needed to make needed improvements. Instead of being proactive, I fear we will become reactive to another crisis, this one involving our food supply.

Jeff Weitzman
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Jeff Weitzman
15 years 11 months ago

This should be considered separately from the $600 million to be spent on security-related issues. Whether that is adequate to protect against deliberate tampering with the food supply is another issue. Is $7 million enough to ensure our food is safe from disease and spoilation? Probably not. $7 million spent on research and education, as pointed out above, can do a lot of good, but can only serve to heighten awareness of the limitations of the existing system. Real change, in the form of higher standards and more thorough inspection, is obviously not a priority, unless it is part and parcel of the security plans. Those plans, however, remain a mystery.

David Lotterer
Guest
David Lotterer
15 years 11 months ago

They’ve dedicated seven million dollars to protecting the nation’s food supply? There are over 900,000 restaurants in the US, with 12.2 million employees (according to the National Restaurant Assoc.). Add to that grocers, food processing, packaging and distribution facilities. With that amount of money, they might be able to buy one hairnet for every worker.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 11 months ago

It would probably be very easy to spend $7m on bureaucrats deciding how to spend it. No amount of money is ever going to make food entirely safe or totally protected. The best anyone can hope for is that the decision on how to spend it is made wisely and quickly before it is all frittered away and that it can be put to some good effect.

However, I agree with others who point out that the responsibility actually lies with the food industry – manufacturers, retailers, inspectors, processors etc etc etc. There is also a great deal of responsibility and contribution that could be made by consumers if they would only make their feelings well enough known. There is so much said, daily, about how Americans don’t like their government to interfere in their lives too much that ultimately forcing the industry to look out for its audience makes a great deal more sense. If only…

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