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Bush Requests $441 Million for Food Safety and Security

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration today proposed funding of $441 million for programs to fight mad cow disease, bioterrorism and other threats to U.S. food security, Reuters reports.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture would use some of the money to test 40,000 head of cattle a year for mad cow disease, which is double the past rate, and to prioritize creation of a livestock tracking system. In addition, funds would be used to completely renovate a federal laboratory that carries out tests for mad cow and other agricultural threats.

"The United States must be vigilant in protecting the safety of the nation's food system from terrorist attacks," the White House said in budget documents. It said expertise in preventing outbreaks of animal and plant disease would be "turned toward thwarting deliberate acts of contamination and introduction of disease," according to Reuters.

USDA will work with the Health and Human Services Department to develop new ways to detect and prevent contamination of food as well as increase monitoring of the food supply. They also will establish "a network of laboratories equipped to analyze rapidly agricultural diseases and potentially contaminated food."

"The budget provides $381 million, a $302 million increase, the largest increase ever, for USDA to enhance efforts to quickly respond to food contamination or animal and plant diseases and infestations," budget documents said.

Last week Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced spending of $60 million that would be earmarked for work on mad cow disease in fiscal 2005. Combined with the food security money, that would boost the total to $441 million.

In other food security news, Jill Hollingsworth, v.p. of food safety programs at the Food Marketing Institute, recently told attendees at the CIES International Food Safety Conference in Barcelona, Spain that FMI members have identified food safety as their number one priority. She said FMI has addressed four areas in its aim to develop end-to-end food safety, according to CIES. Those areas are: the food source (suppliers); in-store operations; employee training; and consumer education. On the supply side, FMI has supported the creation of the SQF standard, which has now been benchmarked by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).
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