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HHS secretary touts safety of U.S. food supply during OKC visit



With a pineapple in one hand, and a banana in the other, the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services proclaimed America is the best place to eat.

"The reality is we have the safest (food) supplies in the United States," Sec. Michael Leavitt said. "To maintain safety, we have to improve."

Leavitt is on a cross-country tour to review how the United States imports its food and sends it on to the consumer. As part of his tour, Leavitt visited Oklahoma City today to take a tour of one of the new Homeland grocery stores at 9225 N. May.

Leavitt said the government is looking at new ways to inspect food brought in from out of the country.

"You have to create a process," he said. "We can't inspect all the food with our hands and eyes. We have to learn to inspect with technology."

Leavitt said the process is changing to a theory he called "shrinking the haystack," meaning finding tainted food is like finding a needle in a haystack. The key is to shrink the haystack to make the search easier. It involves using more technology to handle the bulk of inspections.

"Everything is checked," he said. "But a small portion is taken out and inspected with hands and eyes."

Leavitt expects more government funding will be needed to make the technological changes.

"In the next 10 years, three times the amount of imports will be coming into this country. We will see more resources needed over time."

Once Leavitt has completed his review tour, he will report back to President Bush with his findings and recommendations. "Scott Cooper


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