NMA ADDRESSES BIOSECURITY IN TELECONFERENCE
OAKLAND, CA – NMA today hosted a teleconference on the increasingly important topic of “Biosecurity Systems for Meat and Poultry Plants.”
Dr. Elsa Murano, Undersecretary of Food Safety, addressed participants on the topic of USDA Biosecurity Activities. “Safeguarding the food supply is what the meat & poultry industry and USDA does,” she reminded the participants. However, in this unique time, a heightened awareness must be brought to the additional element of intentional contamination. She described how USDA is refreshing and reminding its inspectors to be vigilant in their duties.
As well as these frontline employees, USDA has engaged the Food Emergency Rapid Response and Evaluation Team (FERRET), a USDA working group that provides a vehicle for collaboration across USDA mission areas, and the Foodborne Outbreak Coordination Group (FORC-G), which Dr. Murano co-chairs and which provides an opportunity for various federal, state and local authorities to coordinate activities regarding foodborne disease outbreaks. She also said that USDA will be working closely with Tom Ridge on Homeland Defense in the weeks and months to come and encouraged cooperation to coordinate plant security and develop industry-agency working group. Sharon Brooks, Olsson, Frank & Weeda next described USDA’s Biosecurity efforts in further detail, discussing the first USDA conference on the topic, which had been held last week.
Jere Sullivan, Executive V.P. & Deputy General Manager, Public Affairs Crisis Communication, Edelman Public Relations Worldwide addressed Crisis Communication. Communication is one of the most important areas for dealing with any biosecurity threat. It is important to establish the following criteria for a crisis communication plant:
- Make an across the board effort;
- bring together crisis and security plans;
- expand in-plant contingency plans that address evacuation, employee tracking (who’s in, who’s out, who’s traveling);
- prepare a post-crisis employee counseling plan; and,
- this is KEY, put in place internal communication and communication with stakeholders
When communicating, Sullivan emphasized, make sure to point out that you are not in a risk mode, but rather are acting preventively. “You don’t want to frighten your community,” he said. “Instill confidence not panic.”
Next Dr. Richard Mikita of Kroll Associates reminded participants to conduct a HACCP review and a full survey of security, including Human Resources. One of the most important areas is access, who can go where when.
Finally Daniel Puzo, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs Crisis Communication, Edelman Public Relations Worldwide communicated the troubles of dealing with media. He used the current Anthrax outbreak to emphasize his point: Do not extrapolate. In dealing with the sudden appearance of Anthrax in Florida, officials were too quick to downplay the possible intentional spreading of the dangerous disease. In the future, the media will be less trustful of their statements. Puzo recommended not making any assumptions and telling media representatives only what you know to be factual.
Based on the Biosecurity Teleconference, and other information currently being gathered, NMA will be putting together a further chapter to the crisis management manual it gave to members last year. While NMA does not anticipate any specific threats, we must act proactively. It is important to understand possible threats, their source, safeguards against them, and, most importantly, to know how to contain a situation in the event of an attack.
National Meat Association is a non-profit trade association representing meat packers and processors, as well as equipment manufacturers and suppliers who provide services to the meat industry. The association, with over 600 members throughout the United States, includes membership in Canada, Australia and Mexico.
Media can contact Edelman Public Relations Woldwide at (202) 371-2858.