"We remain steadfast in our commitment to work with our federal, state and private sector partners so that we can keep our agricultural commodities safe," said Dr. Richard Raymond, USDA under secretary for food safety.
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is in the midst of conducting five critical food defense exercises this year. The first exercise took place in Alameda, CA, last month. Through these exercises USDA will practice reporting a non-routine incident while coordinating with all levels of government, non-governmental agencies and the private sector. The exercises will challenge all participants to collaborate more closely and become better prepared to keep the food supply safe.
The first day of the exercise focuses on non-routine incident reporting and how program offices would manage an emergency. The second day focuses on product recall and public health and communication issues.
Additionally, FSIS will test its ability to coordinate with organizations outside of USDA, such as the local and state departments of health and agriculture, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the FDA, as well as the affected industries.
The remaining exercises will be conducted in Raleigh, NC on March 22-23; Chicago, IL on May 17-18; Minneapolis, MN on July 19-20; and Albany, NY on September 20-21. FSIS will eventually conduct similar exercises in all 15 FSIS regional district offices.
Last July, USDA announced the Strategic Partnership Program Agroterrorism (SPPA) Initiative. In December, the first pilot visit was conducted by USDA's Farm Service Agency and Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration in cooperation with FDA and the grain export elevator industry in New Orleans, LA. The purpose of these visits was to assess and identify vulnerabilities in the agriculture and food sectors. In March, USDA and FDA will jointly assess frozen foods in Wisconsin and Florida. Also in March, USDA will conduct an assessment on swine with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the National and Iowa Pork Producers.
For more information, visit www.usda.gov/homelandsecurity.