(March 19) WASHINGTON, D.C. — Companies selling food safety and security are doing well in this new era of extreme food insecurity.

That could be seen at the Food Safety Summit sponsored by the National Food Processors Association and the National Restaurant Association. This relatively new show has grown to 1,500 attendees and 150 exhibitors for the fourth summit. Key speakers were Tom Ridge, homeland security director under President Bush, and Lester Crawford, the new deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, the de facto head of the agency in the absence of a commissioner.

“We’re proud to have one of our own heading FDA,” said John Cady, president of the NFPA.

Crawford formerly served as NFPA vice president and also headed agencies at both FDA and USDA.

The federal government, Ridge said, is taking the security and safety threat seriously and is in the process of giving USDA $330 million more and FDA $161 million more to enhance food safety.

Ridge said both FDA and USDA are members of the government’s homeland security council.

Crawford said the safety and security challenge is growing.

“We have five times the number of pathogens we had 50 years ago,” he said.

He said some of the bugs are nastier and harder to deal with than in the past, including variants of existing pathogens he describes as worrisome.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., sounded a warning that the threat to the food supply is real, and that plant and animal diseases could be deliberately introduced into the U.S.

“We need to upgrade security now,” he said.

He said the risk is high, but the threat may have been lessened through heightened awareness and vigilance.

Roberts has sponsored legislation that would spend millions more for biosecurity and to upgrade protection of facilities.