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WASHINGTON -- Companies that ship meat, poultry, and eggs are advised to tighten security in places where terrorists would most likely tamper with food, according to new guidelines issued yesterday by the U.S. Agriculture Department.
The guidelines are currently voluntary, but department
officials said meat packers, shipping companies, retailers, and other distributors have a vested interest in making sure food is safe for consumers.
"These guidelines will further enhance the safety and security of meat, poultry and egg products throughout the food distribution chain," said Garry L. McKee, administrator of the department's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
Under the recommendations, companies are asked to check for vulnerable spots in the shipping where terrorists could poison food with harmful bacteria or chemicals. Companies should make security improvements, including providing workers with additional training and increasing oversight of trucks, ships, and airplanes carrying food, department officials say.
Noting that terrorists are most likely to sabotage
hamburger, chicken, or other meat and poultry products as they are loaded and unloaded from freight trains or trucks, FSIS says workers should pay strict attention when monitoring shipments.
The department also recommended:
-- Truckers and other workers be trained to deal with intentional and unintentional contamination of the food they are hauling,
-- Those who are hauling meat products should routinely check their loads to ensure they haven't been tainted and that the food is kept at the proper temperature,
-- Processors should make sure the companies shipping their products have security programs to protect the food, and
-- Shippers also should check the seals on the doors of boats, planes, and trucks carrying meat, poultry, and eggs, to ensure that no one has broken in.
The department said in a Federal Register notice that it is seeking comments before it considers issuing the guidelines as requirements.