As someone who was in New York City on 09/11/01, I saw the fear, death and destruction first hand. It is something I will never forget. The recent bombings at the Boston Marathon remind me of just how vulnerable our society is. Killing and maiming innocent people, especially children, with an exploding pressure cooker packed with nails and pieces of metal disturb me to the core. What makes me really think after a horrific incident of terrorism is how unprotected our vast food industry is. From the farm to a retail setting, in some circumstances our food chain is wide open for attack. Several years ago I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit in on a lecture given by an FBI agent in counter-terrorism on food safety. He didn’t talk about some knucklehead not washing his hands after using the toilet; his discussion was on a global scale. He cited several domestic and international terrorist threats through food. From purposely contaminating the local buffet with Salmonella to developing genetically altered “Super Seeds” to destroy crops, the actions of some of the individuals he described were aggressive and premeditated. All it takes is some information easily obtainable from the Internet, a little bit of cash and the strong desire to cause harm. We as industry professionals must take that fact into consideration every day and implement the following basic precautionary measures:
1) Report suspicious activity.
2) Keep areas secure. (Eg-electrical rooms and water supplies)
3) Use visitor logs.
4) Use employee identification tags.
5) Prohibit personal items in food processing areas.
6) Implement food defense training.
Finally, as the saying goes, “If you see something, say something.” In the hectic yet sometimes complacent food industry, this can make the difference in avoiding a potential disaster.