The Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center (Center) at New Mexico State University (NMSU) proposes to establish a State Food Protection Task Force program in New Mexico and hold a multiyear statewide conference to initiate the program. The Center was formed as a partnership between the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) and NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences with current members representing several state agencies including the New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Livestock Board. The Center has been instrumental in coordinating local, regional, and statewide events in the area of food safety and defense for more than five years.
It is widely reported that food-borne disease causes an estimated 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. The food safety and defense arena is currently evolving due to proposed legislation at the federal level, increased import and export activity, and technology enhancements;the current economic conditions of the country and state will also force the regulatory agencies to evaluate alternatives given tight state and federal budgets challenges. These issues along with an increase in public notification and awareness are the primary reasons to organize a conference plan at the state level.