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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU hosts agriculture, food vulnerability assessment training in Albuquerque

ALBUQUERQUE - Ensuring that the country's food supply is safe is an ongoing process that keeps the agricultural industry vigilant. To help it and the county emergency management personnel from across New Mexico assess the vulnerability of food production, processing and transportation facilities, New Mexico State University is hosting a training program Oct. 23-25 at NMSU's Albuquerque Center, 2444 Louisiana Boulevard NE.

The two-and-a-half-day, free training, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, will be taught by a panel of national instructors provided by the University of Tennessee. Billy Dictson, director of the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center housed at NMSU, will be among the teachers.

"This training is to teach people who are involved in the food industry or who are involved with community preparedness how to assess the vulnerability of either the food processing plant or agricultural enterprises in their county," Dictson said.

"We are starting a project of trying to get counties to prepare an agriculture preparedness annex as part of their existing county plan. This is a good first step for doing that, because it will teach them how to look at their community, and individual facilities, and see where weak places are that could be vulnerable to either food contamination, criminal events or disgruntled workers."

The course will teach the CARVER plus Shock evaluation tool which Dictson says was originally developed by the U.S. military to assess security vulnerability. "It is the method most commonly used and recommended by both USDS and FDA to assess food and agriculture facilities," he said. CARVER stands for criticality, accessibility, recuperability, vulnerability, effect and recognizability.

"The system breaks down exposure and hazards into characteristics that are easily defined and can be examined independently. Most of this is common sense," Dictson said. "It asks if a contaminant is going to get into your field or processing facility, where will it most likely occur that will cause the most damage."

For more information or to register for the course visit the Web site: http://cahe.nmsu.edu/registration/agassessment/registration.php. Or contact Dictson at (505) 646-4402.