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WASHINGTON - The Food and Drug Administration has released new guidelines to protect the U.S. food supply, stressing that the food industry should voluntarily follow them, The Associated Press reports. The measures will be published today in the Federal Register.
The government suggests that America's farms, restaurants and supermarkets should consider criminal background checks on employees, take care to safeguard water supplies and keep a closer eye on the salad bar. In addition, companies should be watchful for employees who stay at work after their shifts end and restrict access to computer control systems, laboratories and sensitive areas of processing plants, the USDA says.
The guidelines were put together in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, with advice from the food industry. Companies are not required to follow them.
The only known terrorist attack on U.S. food occurred in the 1980s, when a cult in Oregon contaminated salad bars with salmonella bacteria. Experts say fresh produce may be the food most vulnerable to tampering because it is often eaten raw and is subject to little government inspection.
FDA is issuing similar guidelines for importers that include detailed suggestions for transporting and storing food. Companies are advised to use locked and sealed containers for transporting food.
Congress recently approved the hiring of 600 additional food inspectors at FDA, which would allow the agency to double the number of people it has checking imported products. The agency currently inspects about 1 percent of imported food.