Food Safety: Agencies Should Further Test Plans for Responding to Deliberate Contamination

RCED-00-3 Published: Oct 27, 1999. Publicly Released: Nov 24, 1999.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights
Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the preparedness of the federal food safety regulatory agencies to respond to acts or threats of deliberate food contamination, including those by terrorists, focusing on the: (1) extent to which food has been deliberately contaminated with a biological agent (bacteria, virus, or toxin) or threatened to be contaminated with such an agent; and (2) plans and procedures that federal food safety regulatory agencies have for responding to threats and acts of deliberate food contamination with a biological agent.

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Health and Human Services To better ensure the effectiveness of the federal food safety regulatory agencies' response to deliberate food contamination using a biological agent, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services should direct the Under Secretary for Food Safety and the Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, respectively, to test the effectiveness of their response plans and procedures, using simulated exercises and, where appropriate, to modify their plans and procedures on the basis of these tests. The exercises should be designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the responses by federal, state, and local agencies, as well as industry, to a variety of incidents of deliberate food contamination with a biological agent.
Closed - Implemented
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Agriculture To better ensure the effectiveness of the federal food safety regulatory agencies' response to deliberate food contamination using a biological agent, the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services should direct the Under Secretary for Food Safety and the Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, respectively, to test the effectiveness of their response plans and procedures, using simulated exercises and, where appropriate, to modify their plans and procedures on the basis of these tests. The exercises should be designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the responses by federal, state, and local agencies, as well as industry, to a variety of incidents of deliberate food contamination with a biological agent.
Closed - Implemented
On January 10, 2003, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service participated in a simulation exercise, involving a biological agent, to test its process for responding to a deliberate attack against the food supply. Over 100 federal, state, and industry representatives participated in this exercise. The agency has been briefed on the results and is working on addressing those results. Future exercises are planned.

Full Report