University of Tennessee starts agricultural preparedness program
| 10.18.2006 | 06:30:52 | Views: 3008 | ID:
October 18 '06: The University of Tennessee has received more than $2 million in federal homeland security money to help build an Agriculture and Food Security Preparedness Center, WVLT, a local CBS affiliate reported this week. The center will act as a clearing house for information and training to help farmers and the food industry "learn how to protect themselves from a bioterrorism attack."
Dr. Sharon Thompson, the center's director told the Associated Press, "We will be training industry folks, in particular, to assess their own facilities for vulnerability to someone coming in and intentionally contaminating their product. ... Then we take it to the next step - what they can do to harden those targets and actually move into a prevention perspective."Recent outbreaks of E coli infections have shown weaknesses in a centralized system, officials say. In September, contaminated spinach from one facility ended up being sent all over the country. Additionally, in remarks made to Congress former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said it was important that vigilance was maintained by the food industry working with federal, state and local agencies to keep the food supply safe because "food may be a likely medium for spreading infectious diseases." The Tennessee Deputy Director for Homeland Security John Shipkowski told the AP, "We are now in a world where we've got to worry about potential adversaries deliberately targeting the agricultural system. ... That threat requires a new breed of professionals to educate industry, assess vulnerability and come up with ways to mitigate those vulnerabilities." The trial classes for the UT center "are planned this year in sessions in Tennessee," the AP reported. 34 sessions will be offered around the country that will be free and will have representatives from the UT campus as well as representatives in training from New Mexico, California, Virginia, Iowa and Louisiana.
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