Food Companies Warned
Of Major Bioterror Threat
By Kevin Curran

Security experts are warning food companies they could be vulnerable to a bioterrorist attack at any step in the route from farm to processor to supermarket.
Among the actions being urged by industry consultants and government officials:
Increased testing for a larger variety of pathogens at processing plants.
Being careful about the selection of suppliers, especially from outside the country.
Asking farmers and ranchers to watch for unusual activity on their fields and grazing lands.
Paying more attention to personnel in their plants, many of whom are transient workers.
U.S. Department of Agriculture director Floyd Horn told the New York Times, "No sector of society is immune from this brand of terror." He has warned storage facilities operators to move quickly to prepare for possible bioterrorist attacks.
Gene Grabowski of the Grocery Manufacturers of America said that "we all recognize acutely that we,re in a new world now."
While no one in the industry would discuss its vulnerabilities, several possible terrorist scenarios have emerged. Among them are putting biological or chemical poisons into packaged foods or spreading contagious livestock diseases.
Recent concerns over mad cow disease and genetically modified foods have made food processors more aware of security and testing requirements. Since they cannot test everything that goes into or comes out of their plants, the companies are concentrating on ways to prevent potential attacks before they happen.
Securing the entire food industry would be an impossible task. It starts with 900 million acres of open farmland, then moves into countless storage and transportation systems before getting to packing or processing plants and then to the consumer.
Meat processors say proper cooking can kill most pathogens, but that isn,t the case with fruits and vegetables that are eaten raw.
Iowa State University professor Neil Harl said an attack on food or water systems could be devastating. "It may not be as visually striking as flying two planes into the twin towers, but it can strike at the heart of a nation."


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