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Food security
  • Motor carriers and drivers need to apply security measures to protect food shipments from terrorist attack.
  • Companies should know that terrorists use several methods to threaten the food supply, causing death, destruction and fear.

Food safety has always been a concern for motor carriers that transport those commodities. But motor carriers and drivers need to take precautions a step further by applying security measures to protect shipments tampering.

An intentional act of food contamination could cause devastating illnesses and even death to countless numbers of people.

Terrorist threats to the food supply

The farm-to-table process has multiple points that are vulnerable to terrorist attack, including the supply chain. The health and well-being of every consumer depends on the vigilance of motor carriers and their drivers.

Terrorists always look for weaknesses in those targeted. Terrorists want to use the most efficient means of causing death, destruction, and fear. Efficiency means least resistance with the greatest impact. Tampering with the nation’s food supply could satisfy these two requirements.

To fully grasp the gravity of a compromised load of finished or raw food product, individuals need to know how a specific assault would play out. Consider the following terrorist techniques.

Biological agents

Strategy: Bacteria or toxins with illness-producing effects on people, livestock, and crops are introduced to the supply chain. Bacteria that could be used to effectively contaminate the food supply include anthrax, botulism, brucellosis, and foot-and-mouth disease.

Outcome: If a terrorist uses a biological agent to contaminate food or water, the attack:

  • Requires time to grow doses large enough to cause harm; and
  • Is extremely difficult to detect until people start showing signs and symptoms of disease.

Physical agents

Strategy: Various physical hazards, such as glass or metal, could be used to intentionally contaminate food.

Outcome: This type of contamination would only affect small numbers of people because of the difficulty to contaminate large portions of the food supply. Nevertheless, even a single act of intentional contamination could have devastating and lasting consequences for a food company and its transporter.

Chemical agents

Strategy: Similar to physical agents, the use of chemicals to intentionally contaminate food would only affect small segments of the population.

Outcome: The psychological effect on the general public if death or illnesses were to occur would have a lasting impact, an end result that terrorists strive for.

Radiological agents

Strategy: Radioactive material is introduced into the food or water supply.

Outcome: Since radiation cannot be seen, smelled, felt, or tasted, people at the site of an incident will not know whether radioactive materials were involved. Internal contamination occurs when people swallow or breathe in radioactive materials, or when radioactive materials enter the body through an open wound or are absorbed through the skin. Internal exposure may lead to an increased risk of developing cancer and other adverse health effects.