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Food & Agriculture Biosecurity Initiative announced by incoming executive dean at Rutgers

For most Americans, fear of food centers on fat content or calories. Rarely do we worry about food safety or for that matter about food shortages. September 11 and anthrax contamination originating from New Jersey post offices threatened this consumer confidence. Intentional introduction of chemical, biological or radiological contaminants or destruction and disruption of the food system are potential realities.

It is one thing to respond to a disaster quite another to anticipate, prepare for and prevent its occurrence, contends Dr. Adesoji Adelaja, newly selected Executive Dean of Cook College and the New Jersey Agriculture Experiment Station, (NJAES), Rutgers. Our past history with alar on apples, contaminated strawberries from Chile and e coli in hamburger meat pinpointed our vulnerability. We are little more prepared today for accidental introduction of foodborne pathogens or chemicals. Faced with intentional tampering, our system would fail.

Adelaja today announced an effort to shore up these weaknesses in New Jersey and build a model of private-government-academic cooperation that other states might follow. New Jersey is a leading food distribution hub for the Northeast, stated Dr. Richard Merritt, director of the Food Systems Professional Education Initiative for the Mid-Atlantic Consortium, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and 10 colleges and universities (MAC). New Jersey plays a key role in the regions $277 billion food industry, where a high concentration of national and international food companies make their headquarters. It is natural for Rutgers agricultural and natural resources college and its network of experiment stations to take leadership in this issue.

Adelaja said that the Food & Agriculture Biosecurity Initiative would have several central themes. First it would assess vulnerability of and determine priority early warning surveillance points for the food supply from farm to table. It would create a war
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Contact: Michele Hujber
hujber@aesop.rutgers.edu
732-932-9000 x555
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
14-May-2002


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