Food Defense 101
Food Defense Incidents vs. Food Safety Incidents
To understand a food defense incident, you first must understand the differences between a food safety incident and a food defense incident. A food safety incident is caused from an accidental foodborne illness. Some examples of a food safety incident result from food handlers not washing their hands, cross-contamination, not cooking food to a temperature that kills bacteria, and an unsafe source. A food defense incident is the result of intentional food contamination, meaning that the food was deliberately made unsafe (adulterated). The most commonly accepted definition of a food defense incident is the "adulteration of food to cause harm." This means that some individuals or groups of people might intentionally contaminate food to seek revenge against another person or group, or create fear through a terroristic act by using food as a weapon to make people ill or even cause death. In addition, another consequence that can result from a food defense incident is public fear that the government can't protect them from harm.
Why do we care?
We are all vulnerable to a food defense incident because we all eat. Since 1980, there have been over 673 documented food defense incidents globally. The history of these events has increased over the past 30 years. This suggests there are a greater number of people and organizations - including disgruntled employees, foreign and domestic terrorist groups, and "lone wolves" - that are capable of leveraging the weaknesses in the food system as a means to create fear or harm the public.
Food Defense Incidents
- The first recorded food defense incident dates to 590 B.C. and involved the Athenians contaminating drinking water in the city of Kirrha to render their enemy defenseless.
- In 1984, the Rajneeshee cult in Dalles, Oregon contaminated ten salad bars with Salmonella enterica Typhimurium which resulted in 752 ill community members and 45 hospitalizations.
- In 2013, Aqlifoods Co in Gunma Prefecture, Japan, recalled 6 million products due to an employee with insider knowledge of the facility spraying frozen food products with Malathion pesticide.
- In 2016, an employee added sand and dirt from the facility parking lot into the chicken product at Gold n' Plump in Cold Spring, MN.
- In 2017, a customer at a popular grocery store, Whole Foods Market, in Ann Arbor Michigan was caught spraying a mixture of rodent poisoning and hand sanitizer on salad bars and produce.
- 98% of confirmed food defense incidents have occurred locally at restaurants, grocery stores, and other places where consumers can purchase food.
Putting a Food Defense System in Place
In preparation for Super Bowl 52, the city of Minneapolis identified a gap in overall awareness, training, and response around food defense incidents. The city developed one of the first food defense response plans in the country. The planning documents were the result of a coordinated effort among environmental, health, and law enforcement professionals from local to federal agencies, as well as academia.
What can you do?
The planning documents have been revised to serve as templates for other cities, counties, states, etc. to plan for a food defense incident response using a criminal-epidemiological framework. See resources below.
For more information, or to obtain a copy of these templates, please contact Jillian Bagley, MPH, CEM, at [email protected] or 612-673-2301.
Food Emergency Response Planning Documents User Guide
Food Emergency Response Plan – Intentional Contamination Template
Appendix 1 – Training Materials Template
Appendix 2 – List of Select Agents and Toxins Template
Appendix 3 – Joint Threat Assessments Template
Appendix 4 – Joint Investigation Activities Template
Appendix 5 – Joint Interviews Template
Intentional Food Contamination Response Field Operations Guide Template
Food Defense Pocket Card
The Eight Patient https://vimeo.com/87104548
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Last updated Aug 17, 2018