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FDA Tightens Watch on Food Imports

July 23, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Food and Drug Administration has increased its inspections of imported foods fivefold, part of an effort to better safeguard the food supply from possible terrorist contamination.

The Bush administration announced $5 million Wednesday in new research funding to further enhance food security. Among the priorities is the hunt for better ways to detect chemical or biological contamination of food, and the development of food processing techniques that could eliminate such contamination.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks heightened awareness that the food supply is vulnerable to deliberate contamination.

Of particular concern are the millions of pounds of food imported over the nation’s borders. So far this year, FDA has conducted 62,000 inspections of food imports, up from a mere 12,000 in all of 2001.

FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan said safeguarding against intentional contamination should also help prevent food poisonings caused by naturally occurring germs.

The only known terror attack on U.S. food occurred in the 1980s, when a cult in Oregon contaminated salad bars with salmonella bacteria.

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