EU is defending the food chain against bio attack.

AuthorBenoliel, Isabelle
PositionHomeland Security

Since 2002, there has been strong recognition worldwide of the existence of a genuine terrorist threat to the global food supply. However, this is not a new threat. There have been a number of deliberate attacks on food around the world over the years.

For example, in 1984, there was an attack on candies in Japan and another on salad bars in Oregon in the United States. In 2002, Chinese supplies of breakfast food were also targeted. Since 9/11, some evidence has been discovered in the Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan which indicates that they have studied the idea of using specific agents to contaminate food supplies.

The food chain is an easy and vulnerable target, and a terrorist attack on food could have devastating consequences. One needs only to look at the destructive impact that natural outbreaks can have. In 1985, milk pathogens affected around 170,000 people in the U.S., while in 1991 clam pathogens affected around 300,000 people in China. A deliberate attack could very quickly, very easily, affect an enormous amount of people and have a huge cost for the economy.

The European Union, like the U.S. Government, takes this threat very seriously. But when it comes to protection, difficulties arise from the sheer complexity of our food systems and the variety of ways in which it is produced and distributed.

There are two basic pillars to our approach. The first is prevention and preparedness, i.e. bringing together the various elements which can help in preventing an outbreak or averting a crisis. This means controlling food production and imports, monitoring the food chain (including distribution), and ensuring health preparedness. The second pillar is the response undertaken once an outbreak has occurred. In this situation, the first point of action is human health protection. However, the strategy also has to provide for public information and actions to coordinate responder networks and law enforcement agencies.

Animal health is clearly an area of high potential vulnerability, as deliberate attempts can be made to introduce diseases into animal populations. The malicious introduction of a virus or contaminant in an animal could spark an international crisis by creating a major animal disease epidemic and/or a food-safety problem. In such a scenario, the same defense mechanisms apply to a deliberate introduction of disease as to a conventional (i.e. accidental or natural) one. These mechanisms are early detection, the use of traceability systems, rapid control-and-eradication measures, contingency plans and overall coordination. A comprehensive and effective general safety system is an essential precursor to preparing for and responding to agro-terrorist...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT