Two years ago to the day terrorist attacks in the United States struck a nation, leaving it shocked, angry and vulnerable. As the country continues to recover, national security remains very much a top priority, in particular agriculture and the food supply.
Discussions of initiatives underway in several key areas and organisations, including the US Department of Agriculture, featured in a daylong symposium, "Agriculture, Agrochemicals and Homeland Security," during the 226th national meeting of the American Chemical Society this week.
Michael Ruff, director of Homeland Security for USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Assistant Administrator for ARS' Office of Technology Transfer, claims the agency has issued a number of 'stringent policies and procedures' covering pathogen control, physical and cyber security, human reliability, and emergency response planning.
He maintains the USDA has worked 'extensively with other federal agencies, state and local governments, universities and the private sector' to improve communications and the ability to rapidly detect and respond to any threats to America's agriculture and food supply.
Neville Clarke, director of the Institute for Countermeasures against Agricultural Bioterrorism (ICAB) at Texas A&M University, outlined the strategies that ICAB has developed to help guard against biological agents designed to cause plant and animal disease. The Institute is involved in developing plans to handle emergency outbreaks that may threaten the food supply, including recovery plans to accelerate a return to normality.
Jenny Scott of the National Food Processors Association's Food Safety Programs commented that the the food industry is focusing on increased screening and supervision of food workers, more controls on access during production and transportation of food products, and stronger barriers against possible intruders.
According to Scott, the association has developed a Threat Exposure Assessment and Management (TEAM) process to evaluate food security risks and prepared a security checklist of questions to consider when assessing potential vulnerabilities.