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Our next foe: paranoia. (Roamin Column).

I don't know about your city, but I have seen media reports across the nation warning the U.S. consumer against everything from water poisoning to tainted hot dogs. It's time we pulled back and realized the American food supply is safer now that it has ever been and I doubt that terrorists are going to target our popcorn supply as the medium for their next assault. Let's be real. The food industry has always been responsible for food safety and, with the exception of some shortcomings, has made steady progress.

As far as our nation as a whole is concerned, it is important to note the steps the government has already taken to ensure our protection In October, the USDA and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced a boost in personnel at U.S. "ports of entry, food inspection facilities, and research labs and buildings," all of which maintain a heightened state of alert. At the ports of entry, government personnel are conducting intensified product and cargo inspections of travelers and baggage. I have seen this one first hand at O'Hare customs, where the inspection lines look like lines for the Elvis reincarnation tour.

Food safety inspectors have received additional guidance to be alert to any irregularity at food processing facilities. So, if asked, open your doors, these folks are here to help.

Secretary Veneman also announced that President Bush proposed allocation of $46.2 million to USDA as part of a $20 billion submission to Congress for emergency funding to "strengthen essential programs and services related to biosecurity issues."

"The President's proposed emergency funding for USDA will help advance the next phase of our emergency preparedness activities and will help meet our critical infrastructure needs," said Veneman.

According to USDA reports, the President's proposed allocation may benefit areas such as $17.2 million for enhanced security at USDA facilities, and $8.9 million for response mechanisms to potential food supply threats, improve data collection and dissemination, and other biosecurity activities.

I'd say the efforts are well under way to safeguard the American food supply despite media efforts to make people pick through burritos. The Press Room at the WWFE hosted a seminar on food safety and some journalists' questions made me want to toss my lunch (or was it the mayo that sat out for a couple of hours?). Journalists were trying to pin down an expert panel on ways to keep anthrax out of our foods. We pens really can be fear mongers.

What we really have to watch out for are those people on American soil whom, for ignorance, nonfeasance or malfeasance choose to ignore food safety. Take for example Leslie Herman, president of HRM Provision Co., Boynton Beach, Pla., who pleaded guilty in federal court for violating the Poultry Products Inspection Act, The court ordered the firm to pay a $5,000 fine. The firm also agreed to make a voluntary contribution of $10,000 to the Daily Bread Food Bank, Inc.

Before we toss our cookies out of fear, let's ensure our own backyard is in order and continue to do what we can to protect the consumer.

Now, a program note:

Beginning in January, FOOD PROCESSING will do away with an old friend: circle numbers. Legend has it that Putman invented this mechanism to measure readers' interest. But that was decades ago, and with the technological advances in the world, we feel that listing Web sites or 1-800 numbers will offer you immediate information. As always, feel free to tell us what you think.

Steven Ennen, Editor

Tel: 630/467-1300, ext. 346

Fax: 630/467-1179
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Title Annotation:safety of food supply
Publication:Food Processing
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2001
Previous Article:Product mixing. (Material Handling).
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