Giving the Food Security System a Test Run

USDA plans to conduct five critical food defense exercises this year. Compiled by staff

Published on: Jan 17, 2006

USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service will conduct five critical food defense exercises this year. The first exercise will take place in Alameda, Calif. on Jan. 18 and 19.

These exercises are designed to practice reporting a non-routine incident while coordinating with all levels of government, non-governmental agencies and the private sector in an incident command system structure. These 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 will focus on non-routine incident reporting and how program offices would manage an emergency and the second day will focus 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 Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Food and Drug Administration as well as the affected industries.

Additional food defense exercises will be conducted in Raleigh, N.C., March 22-23; Chicago, Ill., May 17-18; Minneapolis, Minn., July 19-20; and Albany, N.Y., Sept. 20-21. FSIS will eventually conduct similar exercises in all 15 FSIS regional district offices.

In July 2005, USDA announced the Strategic Partnership Program Agroterrorism Initiative, which supports President Bush's requirements directing the government to work closely with states and industry to secure the nation's food supply. In December, the first pilot visit was conducted by USDA's Farm Service Agency and Grain Inspection, Packers and Sotckyards Administration in cooperation with FDA and the grain export elevator industry in New Orleans, La.

The purpose of these visits is 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. Currently, the results of grain export elevator industry assessment are being evaluated.

Additional information about agrosecurity can be found on USDA's Web site at www.usda.gov/homelandsecurity.