Democrats Propose Food Safety Measures

WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats are asking for more than $700 million to hire hundreds of new inspectors and take other measures to protect farms and food from terrorist attack, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.

Costs include $636 million for the Agriculture Department and $100 million for the Food and Drug Administration to increase inspections of imported food and domestic grain supplies and also pay for research into biosecurity measures.

"The American people need to have confidence that the food they put on their table or order at their local restaurant is safe," said Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The food protection measures proposed by Democrats are part of a $3.1 billion package of biosecurity initiatives included in their economic stimulus plan.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said that consumers should feel confident about the safety of their food supply, though she recommended washing fruits and vegetables and cooking meat thoroughly.

"At every step of the food chain, both in the private sector and in government, we are continuing to work together to review systems and to ensure that our food will have all of the precautions taken that we possibly can," Veneman said in an interview with CNN.

She has said her biggest concern is that terrorists will attempt to infect livestock with foot-and-mouth disease. While harmless to humans, the disease spreads so quickly that an outbreak could be devastating to the livestock industry.
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