News & Events

$4.7 Million Department of Homeland Security Grant to Protect California's Food Supply

The School of Veterinary Medicine, a partner in the Western Institute of Food Safety and Security, develops teaching, research and service programs that address the health and well-being of food animals and help protect food safety.

University of California, Davis, News Service
August 23, 2004

Presentation of Grant Fundings ImageA $4.7 million dollar grant was presented today to the University of California, Davis, to help protect the food supply of California and the nation against acts of terrorism.

The two-year grant was presented to UC Davis' Western Institute for Food Safety and Security. It will support development and delivery of training programs aimed at helping personnel in the food production system prevent, recognize and deal with potential terrorist acts directed at the nation's food supply.

"This award is a very important step toward preventing terrorist attacks on the food systems in California," said Jerry Gillespie, director of the institute and principal investigator. "Because California leads the nation in dairy, fruits and vegetables, and other specialty-crop production for this nation, and because of the state's dominance in international food trade, it is extremely important that we do all we can to ensure the safety of our food systems.

"One of the most effective strategies for achieving this goal is to have food industry employees informed and actively participating in protection strategies," he added.

Presenting the grant to the campus was Suzanne Mencer, director of the Office of Domestic Preparedness for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Mencer said that UC Davis is receiving the largest such grant awarded nationwide to 14 out of 217 applicants.

Gillespie said the training grant will enable the university and its partners to train people in the food industry to anticipate, prevent and respond to harmful acts directed at the food system -- from the farm to the consumer.

UC Davis expects the training to be a national model for bringing together food system employees, health officials, law enforcement personnel, and government officials to prepare for a prompt and effective response to agroterrorist activity.

More than three dozen biological and chemical agents are considered to be potential agricultural threats. This includes those that cause bacterial and viral diseases like anthrax, brucellosis, botulism, hantavirus and salmonella. Also included are chemical agents that range from pesticides to flammable liquids and corrosive industrial acids. Some could cause extensive illness in humans or food animals, while others could have a devastating economic impact by affecting agricultural crops or livestock.

Fresh and processed tomatoes, apples and dairy products will be the three focus food groups for the training program. These were selected because they are considered to be at risk of terrorist attack; to represent high per-capita consumption, especially among infants and children; to constitute major U.S. production, particularly in California; or to be used widely as ingredients in other foods or prepared meals.

The training program, which is expected to impact more than 1 million front-line personnel, will begin immediately, Gillespie said. It will expand existing programs that are currently offered through the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security as well as UC Cooperative Extension, University Extension and other campus academic programs.

During the first year of the grant, the training program will focus on inventorying existing programs, identifying industry-specific terrorist hazards and threats, communicating risks to industry leaders, and identifying and coordinating those personnel considered to be in the best position for identifying or responding to possible terrorist actions. During the later part of the program, communications systems will be improved, regional and national workshops and conferences held and an assessment made of the nation's level of preparedness in the area of agricultural bioterrorism defense.

The Western Institute for Food Safety and Security is dedicated to coordinating research and education efforts that address food-safety issues, drawing upon the expertise of scientists in academia, government and industry. It was established in 2002 as a partnership between UC Davis and California's Department of Food and Agriculture and Department of Health Services.

Its mission is to develop the capability to identify food-borne hazards more rapidly and accurately, and to develop effective methods to prevent natural and intentional food contamination that might lead to food-borne illnesses and outbreaks.

Collaborating with the institute on the new training grant are 14 partners representing agriculture, public health, law enforcement, and emergency services and management.

 


Media contact:

* Jerry Gilllespie, Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, (530) 757-5757, jrgillespie@ucdavis.edu