From Around the State

Focusing on food inspections, terrorism

Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, federal policymakers and security experts identified the nation's food supply as one of the many aspects of American life vulnerable to terrorism.

Congress and the Bush administration responded by bolstering funding for the Food and Drug Administration and passing the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, which included a call for substantial increases in the number of inspectors who monitor imported and domestic food supplies.

Unfortunately, the effort has been shoved to the back of the refrigerator, figuratively speaking, and now shows signs of serious decay.

The post-Sept. 11 initiatives added 600 inspectors to help ensure the safety of food brought in from other countries. But, as Newsweek's Sharon Begley recently reported, those positions have been gradually cut back. The number of inspectors has returned to pre-Sept. 11 levels.

Consumers won't have to search their memories long for examples of significant and, at times, deadly breakdowns affecting the safety of the nation's food supply.

Congress and the White House need to revisit food safety and take steps to ensure that the safeguards promised after Sept. 11 are put back in place and are kept in place.

If consumers can see the gaps in security, terrorists can, too.

Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune