Today’s Los Angeles Times includes a report on the nation’s food safety. In the report, Times Staff Writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar writes that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Food and Drug Administration held a "meeting of the minds" on how to prevent a terrorist attack on the food supply, but that for budgetary reasons plans that were developed fell by the wayside. Now, there is renewed interest in food safety since contaminated wheat gluten from China entered the country and sickened or killed thousands of pets when it was used in pet food.
After the 2001 terrorist attacks, the government and experts developed protections against an array of threats. But as time passed without new attacks, the sense of urgency drained away. In the case of foodstuff, the FDA’s Import Strategic Plan fell victim to budget constraints, competing priorities and government inertia.
"The bottom line is that the United States is being overwhelmed with food imports, and they are not being screened by the FDA," said William Hubbard, a former FDA associate commissioner for policy and planning.
"A lot of time and effort went into it, and the best minds of the agency were brought in," he said of the import protection plan. "It wasn’t approved or disapproved. It was basically, ‘We can’t do this because we have no money. This is all good stuff, and it should be done, but we don’t have money.’ "