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Feature

Wheat on a tabletop.

Historically, efforts to protect the food supply have focused primarily on preventing and reducing accidental contamination by naturally occurring agents. The University Center for Post-Harvest Food Protection and Defense will center its efforts on deliberate contamination.

U named Center of Excellence for food security

Department of Homeland Security gives U three-year, $15 million grant

From University News Service

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security named the University of Minnesota as one of three Homeland Security Centers of Excellence and gave it a three-year, $15 million grant to help develop ways to protect the nation's food supply from deliberate contamination or terrorist attack.

The University's Center of Excellence is called the Center for Post-Harvest Food Protection and Defense (PHFPD). It's a consortium of academic, private sector, and government partners, including three other universities (Michigan State University, North Dakota State University, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison), experts at 12 more universities, independent research facilities, state health and agriculture agencies, professional organizations, agriculture and food industry companies, and private sector consultants.

"The breadth and depth of food security knowledge we were able to pull together for this effort is unparalleled," says Frank Busta, a professor in the University's Department of Food Science and Nutrition and principal investigator on the grant.

"The University of Minnesota, with extraordinary strength and expertise in the health, animal and food sciences, is uniquely positioned nationally to be a leader in the area of agro-security and food safety," says University President Robert Bruininks.

The U.S. food system--from farms to retail food service--presents an array of vulnerable targets for terrorist attack. Intentional contamination of agricultural or food products with biological, chemical, or radiological agents could be devastating to human health, as well as the economy. Historically, efforts to protect the food supply have focused primarily on preventing and reducing accidental contamination by naturally occurring agents.

One of the major strengths of the proposal lay in a unique farm-to-table industry group that has been collaborating with the University for nearly two years to identify security gaps in the nation's food supply and to develop plans to respond to those gaps.

"This University of Minnesota team includes some of the brightest, most accomplished people in food production and health safety," says Minnesota Congressman Martin Sabo, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, which allocates funding for and conducts oversight of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.