Jr Harrison, Moody, Michael W., Morgan, Johnny W. | 12/5/2007 2:11:28 AM
Keeping our food supply safe was the main topic for speakers and panelists at a recent national conference in New Orleans.
Experts spoke on the risks to and readiness of the U.S. food system to acts of bioterrorism, accidental contamination of food-borne pathogens, avian flu and natural disasters at the Food Distribution Research Society Conference Nov. 3-7.
Dr. Wes Harrison, LSU AgCenter agricultural economics professor and a conference organizer, said the food system is a vital part of our economy, and it remains vulnerable to a variety of potential threats.
Col. John Hoffman, retired Army and currently the senior research scholar with the National Center for Food Protection and Defense, spoke on food defense and safety of the food supply chain.
“The greatest threat to the food supply right now is actually things that are not intentional, and these threats will continue,” he said.
An example that he gave was the recent recalls of contaminated meat and other food products. But he reminded those present that the terrorism threat is definitely still there.
As for intentional food terrorism, Hoffman said there have not been any recent events, but he noted that in 1984 a cult in Oregon tainted salad bars with the toxic salmonella bacteria to try to influence the outcome of a local election.
Dr. Mike Moody, assistant director for research and development with the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training and professor in International Programs at the LSU AgCenter, discussed his involvement in safeguarding the food supply.
“We teach classes across the nation to responders to disaster areas,” he said. Those students include anyone who could be called on as a first responder in an emergency, such as community leaders, insurance company representatives, veterinarians, policemen and firemen.
Moody said they depend on such classes in light of the 76 million cases of food-borne illness that result in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths annually in the United States, as estimated by the Centers for Disease Control.
New Orleans was chosen as the conference site because it is a major port for many food products and is home to many food-related businesses and regional governmental agencies that remain sensitive to the needs of planning and recovery for national emergencies because of Hurricane Katrina two years ago.
“Hurricane Katrina was a wake-up call as to the vulnerability of the system,” Harrison said, adding, “I wanted the conference here to address these issues because we’ve seen how bad things can be when you’re not prepared.”
The research society is a nonprofit organization of university educators, researchers, food industry executives, food consultants and government analysts. The LSU AgCenter co-sponsored the event.
On the Internet: Food Distribution Research Society: http://fdrs.ag.utk.edu/default.html
Contacts: Wes Harrison at (225) 578-2727 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Moody at (225) 578- 6277 or email@example.com
Writer: Johnny Morgan at (225) 578-8484 or firstname.lastname@example.org