Should we worry about terrorists making our food supply even more toxic than it already is? NPR discusses the “issue”:
It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster: Villains bent on chaos set their sights on a food company — an easy target — with plans to lace its products with a chemical or pathogen. The hero finds out in time to save the day.
Sound far-fetched? Not according to U.S. regulators who have been pondering such scenarios.
Under new proposed rules from the Food and Drug Administration, food processors and manufacturers — both domestic and companies abroad that ship food to the U.S. — would need to take steps to mitigate a potential terrorist attack.
Few documented incidents of malicious food contamination exist, though, which raises the question: Is food terrorism fact or fiction?
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the U.S. government spent years, and billions of dollars, fortifying various industries against possible terrorist attacks. And since then, the United States has seen its fair share of terrorist attacks, including the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
While the food system has remained relatively untouched, “we’ve certainly studied it since 9/11 to assess what the potential impacts might be,” says Don Kraemer, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “And they can be catastrophic,” he says.
The FDA rules focus on weak links in food processing and manufacturing in an attempt to ferret out where the vulnerabilities exist.
The rules mostly apply to facilities in charge of bulk storage or handling of liquids for human consumption — think dairy plants where milk is stored in big vats. Another area of concern? Facilities like large, industrial bakeries where lots of ingredients are mixed together.
“A lot of food processing manufacturers don’t practice rigid biosecurity,” says Peter Chalk, a terrorism analyst with the Rand Corp., a policy think tank.
Many food companies fail to take even the most basic precaution, he says. Owners don’t padlock warehouses or engage in sufficient surveillance. Or they hire a lot of transient workers without performing background checks…
[continues at NPR]