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NMSU's Dona Ana County Extension Office searching for food protection partners

New Mexico State University's Dona Ana County Cooperative Extension Office is looking for additional partners, particularly agricultural producers and processors, to join their County Food Protection Alliance. Participants in the alliance will focus on networking and training for potentially serious food and agricultural situations. Members also will take part in an agricultural crisis simulation later this month.

"Food safety and defense issues concern everyone," said Karim Martinez, the county program director and home economist for the Dona Ana County Cooperative Extension Service. "The County Food Protection Alliance is a great way to ensure our community is prepared for any food-borne incidents that may arise."

The "Food Incident Tabletop Exercise" will take place from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, July 25, at the Office of Emergency Management, located inside the New Mexico Department of Health Building, 1170 N. Solano Drive, in Las Cruces. Participation is free.

The simulated scenarios in the exercise are designed to test the response capability of an organization or group during a crisis situation. The exercise will be led by Kelly Hamilton and Sonja Koukel, co-directors of the NMSU Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center.

"We want to make sure we are able to connect everyone who would be involved in an emergency incident," Martinez said. "New Mexico is ahead of the game in terms of preparation. We want to make sure we stay that way and continue our preparedness training."

Anyone interested in taking part in the exercise can respond by visiting http://rsvp.nmsu.edu/rsvp/foodprotection before Tuesday, July 23, or calling the Dona County Extension Office at 575-525-6649.

The County Food Protection Alliance works to develop a network of community members, agencies, industry partners and other key stakeholders to prevent and better respond to food-borne incidents. The alliance works with emergency management agencies to learn protocol for early response to food-related events and occurrences, disseminate food recall information and provide additional information to the public.