USDA Food Risk Statement
Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 14:54:21 EST
Subject: Important USDA Food Risk Statement
Everyone concerned about Y2K's potential food danger should read
following and route it to others. It can be read on the USDA web page:
The best insurance against this threat is a historic national local
security mobilization. Local community supported agriculture should be
expanded, farmers markets and growers for them should be created and expanded,
citizens should be taught to plant home gardens and save seeds. The time
this is NOW. There is not a moment to lose. Best, Larry Shook
Food Safety and Inspection Service
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
The Y2K Problem and the Food Supply Sector
Some computers and computer-based equipment may not work correctly after
January 1, 2000, without modifications. For years, many machines have
saved space by using only two digits to represent a year 98 for 1998,
for example. Years in the 20th century were taken for granted. The
effect on years in the 21st century was not anticipated by most until
recently. This is known as the Year 2000 (Y2K) problem. Others calls it
the "millennium bug."
When the date changes from December 31, 1999, to January 1, 2000,
systems and equipment that are not Year 2000 compatible will face
several inherent problems. Two mostly widely predicted are:
* Inability to determine the problem date. (For example, January 3,
could be read by computers as January 3, 1900).
* Inability to tell the number of elapsed years between two dates.
example, From January 3, 1999, to January 3, 2004, could be calculated
incorrectly: 04 minus 99 = minus 95).
Who should be concerned?
Everyone. All Americans are at risk, because almost all of the world,s
economic sectors have become dependent upon the electronic processing
and exchange of information. An interruption in computer-driven data
systems could mean not only an interruption in financial, health,
transportation, and other essential services, but also in economic
The nation's food supply sector is a prime example.
Food suppliers, like so many businesses, are heavily dependent on
computerized processing and information exchange. For example, farmers
and ranchers use electronic equipment to water fields, feed animals, and
transport what they produce. Processors rely on automated systems that
help prepare and package consumer-ready products. Distributors,
wholesalers, and retailers depend on computer-driven equipment to
transport, deliver, store, display, and sell food products.
Any interruption along this farm-to-fork chain can result in a direct
loss to those who supply food. That can mean more expensive, less
available, food supplies.
Whose equipment is affected by Y2K?
Virtually anyone could have a computer or embedded chip that needs to be
reprogrammed. For example:
* Users of large mainframe computers, typically those individually
designed for large organizations. These include the federal government
and the banking, insurance, and manufacturing industries, as well as
large agricultural production and processing centers and major food
* Small businesses, including small farmers, processors, grocery stores,
and others with non-Y2K compliant hardware or software are at risk. So
are small firms with inventory and accounting systems in which data
dated after January 1, 2000, has already been entered.
* The problem goes beyond computers. Equipment with time-dependent
embedded computer chips may be vulnerable. This includes harvesting
equipment, milking machinery, grain elevators, plant and truck
refrigeration systems, store and plant security systems, grocery and
restaurant cash registers, telephones, gas and water facilities, and
plant assembly lines.
* Business owners should not forget their dependence on those with
they do business suppliers, financial institutions, utilities, and
customers, for example. Addressing a Y2K problem in-house doesn,t
guarantee that business is not interrupted. That,s because an outside
customer may fail to obtain his or her own Y2K solution.
Whose equipment is not affected by Y2K?
* No company should assume it is "Y2K OK" without testing
verification. But, some small companies may be less vulnerable than
others at least internally. Computer manufacturers and software
developers are addressing the problems of Y2K code in their products.
Small firms with stand-alone computers that have recently purchased
hardware and software certified as Y2K compliant probably have moved
significantly toward fixing their Year 2000 problems. But, a word of
caution: it,s been reported that some non-Y2K compliant equipment is
still in the marketplace. Buyer beware. Ask the question, and get the
answer in writing.
What is the federal government doing?
In addition to addressing internal Y2K issues, the federal government is
undertaking a massive outreach program aimed at making outside
organizations aware of Y2K problems and solutions. The President,s
Council of Year 2000 Conversion has established federal working groups
in key U.S. public and economic sectors such as finance, transportation,
and health to provide this outreach.
The Department of Agriculture is leading the government,s outreach
effort to the food supply sector, working with the Departments of
Defense, Health and Human Services, and State and the Commodity Futures
The Food Supply Working Group has identified nearly 100 broad
constituency categories (sub-sectors) that are involved in food
production, processing, distribution, and sales and related activities.
It is working closely with industry and other groups to raise awareness
about the Y2K problem, and possible solutions.
What should you do?
1. Conduct a Self-Assessment. Assess your personal and business
vulnerability. This includes looking into all your computers, and any
electronic equipment that uses time-sensitive embedded electronic chips.
For example, food storage or transportation facilities that have
computer-controlled time and temperature components. The Small Business
Association,s Y2K Web site has help on how to do this, at www.sba.gov,
at the Y2K icon.
2. Act now. Expert help is likely to become more expensive, and harder
to find, as the Year 2000 deadline nears. Fix any problem you uncover
now. Test and document your results. Ask your vendors for assistance.
Make contingency plans. How will you stay in business if your company,
or companies, or suppliers and others you depend upon cannot complete
their requires Y2K fixes before January 1, 2000? Verify that they are
3. Stay Informed. Check out some of the many Internet Y2K sites. Read
articles in trade journals and computer publications. Sharing
information will be one of the best ways to identify both possible
problems and solutions.
For Further Information Contact:
Policy, Planning, and Budget Branch
Automated Information Systems Division
Food Safety and Inspection Service
Room 4906-South Building
Washington, DC 20250
Phone: (202) 720-2987
Fax: (202) 720-3984
Adminstrative Support Services
FSIS Home Page