By WANDA REESE
Capital News Service
LANSING — Most Michiganians don’t give a second thought to terrorism when taking a moment to drink a glass of milk, bite into an apple or enjoy Sunday dinner.
But coordinators for emergency management preparedness at the Michigan Department of Agriculture are stepping up efforts to ensure continued security in food safety, animal and plant health and consumer protection.
Like other agencies, MDA has been reviewing security processes and procedures since the Sept.11 attacks. The result is a more aggressive, intense emergency management plan designed to address multiple areas.
“MDA has developed and exercised very specific standard operating procedures for agriculture-related issues,” said Dave Charney, emergency management coordinator for MDA. “These would include procedures for foot and mouth disease, terrorism, foodborne illnesses and aborviruses, such as West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis.”
Charney said the procedures are now a subset of the Michigan Emergency Response Plan, which would set into motion an intricate network of state agencies designed to collaborate efforts in the event of a disaster.
The list includes all state and key federal agencies, local health departments, Michigan State University, the Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Grocers Association, and Michigan Pest Control Association, as well as a host of commodity groups under the leadership of the Michigan State Police.
“The system is designed to notify, operate and respond the same way whether the situation is a type of natural disaster or a potential food safety or animal disease issue,” Charney said. “Each county has an emergency management coordinator and plan.
“To prepare, the agency conducts regular disaster training sessions and drills for the MDA staff. In addition, scheduled surveillance and inspections are conducted on Michigan’s food, dairy and agricultural products from the farm gate to the consumer plate.
“MDA dairy inspectors conduct thorough milk safety inspections of Michigan’s dairy farms at least every six months,” said MDA Director Dan Wyant.
“These inspections involve an overall evaluation of the entire facility, including cattle, cattle housing areas, water supply, milking facilities and equipment.”
In addition, Wyant said, samples are taken at least four times every six months.
For food safety, inspectors conduct regular inspections on farm operations, food processing facilities, grocery stores, warehouses and other establishments across the state. Daily communication exists with local health departments, which are required to report illnesses and complaints related to food quickly.
Coordinated efforts between Michigan farms and the state veterinarian are required to help prevent the spread of disease in animals and feed manufacturing facilities. One direct result from the terrorist attacks is an aggressive increase in surveillance and inspections of pesticides and aerial applicators for state crops.
Several pieces of legislation dealing with agri-terrorism are making their way through the House and Senate. The Michigan Food Law of 2000 specifically addresses terrorism related to food, providing stiff criminal penalties for intentional misuse of pesticides or other agricultural chemicals or infection of animals or plants.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By WANDA REESE