Officials say U.S. food supply needs securing

Despite federal spending of at least $3.4 billion on food counterterrorism programs over the last decade, officials acknowledge this week that it is impossible to determine if the U.S. food supply is any safer.

A Senate subcommittee held a meeting this week to determine the extent of federal setbacks in protecting cattle and crops since September 11, 2001, according to the Washington Times. Lawmakers are demanding answers regarding food-related threats and whether or not key programs have been swamped by bureaucracy.

John Hoffman, a former senior advisor for biosurveillance and food defense at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, testified at the hearing.

“The truth is, nobody’s in charge,” Hoffman said, the Washington Times reports. “Our surveillance doesn’t work yet, our intelligence doesn’t work yet and we’re not doing so well at targeting what comes across the border.”

Top food security officials continue to insist that the implemented initiatives have made the U.S. food supply safer and that investments have prepared the country to respond effectively in an emergency.

In the past decade, no terrorist entity has threatened the food supply. The largest food poisonings have not come from foreign attacks, but from salmonella-tainted eggs originating in Iowa, according to the Washington Times. In that instance, nearly 2,000 people were sickened.

The food security system is considered widely fragmented with no single entity accountable. Federal auditors discovered an Agriculture Department surveillance program that was not operating five years after it was created because different agencies could not agree who was ultimately in control, according to the Associated Press.

Congress also questioned whether it was beneficial to spend $31 million on a state-of-the-art database to monitor the food supply. Currently, the system is not operating as advertised because different agencies are not using it to share valuable information.