Report Says DHS Is Failing To Protect Food
A recent federal audit found that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has failed to provide adequate leadership to safeguard the domestic food supply from potential contamination by terrorists, reports Bloomberg Media.
The post-harvest food chain, which includes storage, processing, packaging, transportation and sale of products, is “highly vulnerable to attack,” reads a report by the department’s inspector general, citing experts interviewed by auditors.
According to the 151-page report posted on the DHS Web site at www.dhs.gov, Homeland security officials have underestimated the extent of the threat and given little attention to the issue.
The report cites “confusion” in DHS policies because of “the absence of a clear leader” in food protection. It states that there is “limited leadership attention to food defense and critical infrastructure protection.”
According to the report, the DHS has five different units responsible for protecting the food supply, which can result in conflicting approaches. The report also states that the DHS has not done enough to set priorities among sites in the food chain that need protection, nor has it adequately coordinated its efforts with other federal agencies and the private sector.
The DHS has been responsible for overseeing the overall national effort to protect the food and agriculture sectors since January 2004.
It is supposed to work with private sectors and agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Food products can be deliberately contaminated with chemical, biological or radiological agents, though there have been few known cases.
A top DHS official says the audit is overly negative and that it neglects the agency’s accomplishments. However, he acknowledges that the agency needs a single official accountable for food-protection responsibilities.