A Fortuitous Time for a Food Safety Summit

Mar 21, 2003

By Ron

The second night of the Food Safety Summit sponsored by FMI, NFPA and NRA and
held in Washington, DC this week featured more than its share of reality as
the war in Iraq interceded on everyone’s evening plans. As a result, much
of the conversation Thursday was centered on what impact the war would have
on the safety of the country’s food supply, with the people I lunched with
questioning the readiness of supermarket retailers to respond to the threat

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss) had addressed the gathering of retailers, suppliers
and allied tradesmen the previous morning, saying the federal government needs
to improve its partnership with the private sector to keep the nation’s
food supply free of intentional contaminants. “There’s no greater responsibility
that the government has than the protection of our citizenry. We must work together
to make sure our food supply is never used as a weapon,” he said, adding that
there are more than 7,600 professionals in the federal government working to
address this and related challenges.

Sen. Cochran also briefly touched on the turf war that is brewing on the issue
of food safety, which is covered by a variety of programs at USDA and FDA. This
challenge arises because there are no direct lines of action/communication between
these agencies and the new Dept. of Homeland Security.

While most at the sessions agreed the bigger threat was to processing plants,
a risk still exists for retailers. Dennis Mullin, CEO of Birds Eye Foods, suggested
the industry adhere to the “Four R’s” in the development and execution
of a food safety system. They are —

  1. Review existing food safety systems.

  2. Research new food safety systems and determine budgets.

  3. Recommend a new food safety system.

  4. Repeat at least once each year.

Moderator’s Comment: Are food retailers and their suppliers
adequately addressing the potential threat to the food supply by terrorists?
Is government oversight needed?
Anderson – Moderator

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