U.S. Food Supply Safe

The American food supply is the safest in the world thanks to industry and government efforts, says a food scientist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. However, the Food and Drug Administration has issued new guidelines to enhance the food supply's safety, in the wake of last autumn's terrorist attacks. The FDA is encouraging companies in all areas of food service to conduct criminal background checks of employees and to restrict access to sensitive areas, among other new guidelines. Dr. Jean Weese, Extension food scientist, says many of the nation's large companies involved in food production and service, already have in place many of the practices set forth in the voluntary guidelines. "Food industries want to be proactive," says Weese."They have seen what happens to companies that don't get things right the first time. They often don't get a second chance," said Weese. She notes that 'Jack in the Box' a national fast food chain, has never fully recovered from the aftermath of a deadly outbreak of E.coli at one of its stores. "No food company wants to be labeled as the one who lets terrorists get by," says Weese. "I think you will see companies of all sizes will implement as many of the guidelines as is feasible for their operations." For example, a small company that relies on municipal water may not regularly test its water as the new FDA guidelines suggest. They may instead rely on municipal testing to identify contaminants. There has only been one known terrorist attack  on food in this country . That occurred in the 1980's when an Oregon cult contaminated a salad bar with salmonella bacteria.