The partnership between USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture has drawn up a new cooperative agreement.

The cooperative agreement will occur in three phases, with the first starting immediately, with phase three concluding by June 2005.

During the first phase, a workgroup comprised of federal, state and local officials will gather information about existing state emergency response systems and how food/agricultural safety and security emergencies will be handled in various states.

In phase two, the group will develop an interagency response plan which will include state and local participation, conduct pilot projectsn to test and revise the plan.

In phase three, participants will develop guidelines for federal food and agricultural regulatory agencies to cooperate with state and local emergency response efforts to facilitate federal assistance and recovery efforts.

"An integrated federal-state response plan will supplement the nation's strong food-safety-threat response system with additional measures to improve the ability of federal, state and local officials to prevent deliberate food contamination," say USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Elsa Murano.

Source: USDA, Meatingplace.com