Amenazas terroristas a los alimentos

Terrorist Threats to Food
Guidance for Establishing and
Strengthening Prevention and
Response Systems
Food Safety Department
World Health Organization
WHO Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
World Health Organization.
Terrorist threats to food: guidance for establishing and strengthening prevention and
response systems.
(Food safety issues)
1. Food contamination – prevention and control 2. Food industry – standards
3. Terrorism – prevention and control 4. Biological warfare – prevention and control
5. Disease outbreaks – prevention and control 6. Guidelines I.Title II.Series.
ISBN 92 4 154584 4 NLM classification: WA 701)
© World Health Organization 2002
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Food Safety Department
World Health Organization
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E.Mail: foodsafety@who.int
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Terrorist Threats to Food: Guidance for Establishing and Strengthening
Prevention and Response Systems
Contents
Executive Summary …………………………………………………………………………………………………..1
1. Introd3
1.1 Purpose……………………………………………………………………………………………………….3
1.2 Definitions and scope …………………………………………………………………………………..4
1.3 Food as a vehicle for terrorist acts ……………………………………………………………….4
1.4 Comparative risks of food and other media as vehicles for terrorist threats…..6
1.5 Potential effects of food terrorism………………………………………………………………..6
1.5.1 Illness and death…………………………………………………………………………………….6
1.5.2 Economic and trade effects……………………………………………………………………..6
1.5.3 Impact on public health services………………………………………………………………7
1.5.4 Social and political implications………………………………………………………………8
1.6 Chemical and biological agents and radionuclear materials that could be used
in food terrorism…………………………………………………………………………………………8
1.7 Establishing and strengthening national prevention and response systems…….8
1.8 Setting priorities………………………………………………………………………………………..10
2. Preve11
2.1 Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………………11
2.2 Existing systems ………………………………………………………………………………………..11
2.3 Strengthening food safety management programmes ………………………………….12
2.4 Prevention and response systems in the food industry…………………………………13
2.4.1 Role of the food industry ………………………………………………………………………13
2.4.2 Agricultural production and harvesting …………………………………………………..14
2.4.3 Processing and manufacture ………………………………………………………………….14
2.4.4 Storage and transport ……………………………………………………………………………15
2.4.5 Wholesale and retail distribution ……………………………………………………………15
2.4.6 Food service ………………………………………………………………………………………..16
2.4.7 Tracing systems and market recalls ………………………………………………………..16
2.4.8 Monitoring ………………………………………………………………………………………….16
2.5 Reducing access to chemical and biological agents and radionuclear
materials……………………………………………………………………………………………………17
2.6 Prevention at points of entry………………………………………………………………………17
2.7 Useful source material ……………………………………………………………………………….17
3. Surveillance, Preparedness and Response……………………………………………………………..19
3.1 Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………………19
3.2 Surveillance ………………………………………………………………………………………………19
3.2.1 Existing surveillance systems ………………………………………………………………..19
3.2.2 Strengthening existing surveillance systems for food safety………………………20
3.2.3 Investigation of suspected food safety emergencies………………………………….21
3.3 Preparedness …………………………………………………………………………………………….22
3.3.1 Principles…………………………………………………………………………………………….22
3.3.2 Assessing vulnerability …………………………………………………………………………23
3.4 Response……………………………………………………………………………………………………24
3.4.1 Existing emergency response systems …………………………………………………….25
3.4.2 Strengthening existing emergency response systems for food safety…………..25
3.4.3 Consequences of a food safety emergency ………………………………………………26
3.4.4 Communication……………………………………………………………………………………28
3.4.5 Launching the response…………………………………………………………………………29
4. The Role of the World Health Organization ………………………………………………………….30
4.1 International response to food safety emergencies, including food terrorism.30
4.2 The World Health Organization ………………………………………………………………..30
4.3 International Health Regulations (IHR)……………………………………………………..31
4.4 Coordination of global outbreak alert and responses ………………………………….32
4.4.1 Outbreak alert mechanisms……………………………………………………………………32
4.4.2 Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network ………………………………………..32
4.4.3 Outbreak response………………………………………………………………………………..32
4.5 Strengthening international systems to meet the threat of food terrorism ……33
4.5.1 Other existing WHO programmes relevant to food emergencies, including
food terrorism………………………………………………………………………………………33
4.5.2 Other international organizations relevant to food safety…………………………..35
4.5.3 Coordination and strengthening of international strategies and activities
that address food safety emergencies, including deliberate contamination
of food………………………………………………………………………………………………..36
Appendix – Specific Measures for Consideration by the Food Industry ……………………..37
1
Executive Summary
The malicious contamination of food for terrorist purposes is a real and current threat, and
deliberate contamination of food at one location could have global public health implications.
This document responds to increasing concern in Member States that chemical, biological or
radionuclear agents might be used deliberately to harm civilian populations and that food might
be a vehicle for disseminating such agents. The Fifty-fifth World Health Assembly (May 2002)
also expressed serious concern about such threats and requested the Organization to provide tools
and support to Member States to increase the capacity of national health systems to respond.
Outbreaks of both unintentional and deliberate foodborne diseases can be managed by the same
mechanisms. Sensible precautions, coupled with strong surveillance and response capacity,
constitute the most efficient and effective way of countering all such emergencies, including food
terrorism. This document provides guidance to Member States for integrating consideration of
deliberate acts of food sabotage into existing programmes for controlling the production of safe
food. It also provides guidance on strengthening existing communicable disease control systems
to ensure that surveillance, preparedness and response systems are sufficiently sensitive to meet
the threat of any food safety emergency. Establishment and strengthening of such systems and
programmes will both increase Member States’ capacity to reduce the increasing burden of
foodborne illness and help them to address the threat of food terrorism. The activities undertaken
by Member States must be proportional to the size of the threat, and resources must be allocated
on a priority basis.
Prevention, although never completely effective, is the first line of defence. The key to
preventing food terrorism is establishment and enhancement of existing food safety management
programmes and implementation of reasonable security measures. Prevention is best achieved
through a cooperative effort between government and industry, given that the primary means for
minimizing food risks lie with the food industry. This document provides guidance for working
with industry, and specific measures for consideration by the industry are provided.
Member States require alert, preparedness and response systems that are capable of minimizing
any risks to public health from real or threatened food terrorism. This document provides policy
advice on strengthening existing emergency alert and response systems by improving links with
all the relevant agencies and with the food industry. This multi-stakeholder approach will
strengthen disease outbreak surveillance, investigation capacity, preparedness planning, effective
communication and response.
The role of the World Health Organization (WHO) is to provide advice on strengthening of
national systems to respond to food terrorism. WHO is also in a unique position to coordinate
existing international systems for public health disease surveillance and emergency response,
which could be expanded to include considerations of food terrorism. This document
complements other guides and advice developed by WHO, the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and other international agencies related to the threat
of terrorist acts with chemical, biological or radionuclear agents.
2
3
Terrorist Threats to Food:
Guidance for Establishing and Strengthening Prevention and
Response Systems
1. Introduction
Threats from terrorists, criminals and other anti-social groups who target the safety of the food
supply are already a reality. During the past two decades, WHO Member States have expressed
concern about the possibility that chemical and biological agents and radionuclear materials
might deliberately be used to harm civilian populations. In recent months, the health ministries
of several countries have increased their state of alert for intentional malevolent use of agents
that may be spread through air, water or food.
On 18 May 2002, the Fifty-fifth World Health Assembly adopted a resolution (WHA 55.16)
which expressed serious concern about threats against civilian populations by deliberate use of
biological, chemical or radionuclear agents. It noted that such agents can be disseminated via
food and requested the Director-General to provide tools and support to Member States,
particularly developing countries, in strengthening their national systems. It also requested
WHO to continue to issue international guidance and technical information on recommended
public health measures to deal with deliberate use of chemical, biological or radionuclear agents
to cause harm. In response, WHO has prepared these guidelines, intended primarily for policymakers
in national governments with responsibility for ensuring food safety, to assist them in
incorporating considerations of food terrorism into existing systems for food safety.
Deliberate release of a chemical, biological or radionuclear agent could potentially cause severe
harm and pose a huge burden on public health systems. Such a release would probably initially
be considered as a natural or unintentional event. The Organization’s traditional role has been
to provide advice and support for strengthening food safety management programmes and public
health disease alert and response systems at all levels. However, such systems need to be
expanded to specifically address diseases that may be caused deliberately.
All Member States must have basic systems to prevent or deter deliberate contamination of their
food supplies and, if attacked, to respond rapidly to minimize the health, economic and other
effects of such contamination. However, counterterrorism should be seen as only one aspect of
a broader, comprehensive food safety programme, in national and global contexts. WHO and
a number of Member States have addressed this issue with strategies to reduce the increasing
burden of foodborne illness. The WHO Global Strategy for Food Safety, endorsed in January
2002 by the WHO Executive Board, comprises a preventive approach to food safety, with
increased surveillance and more rapid response to outbreaks of foodborne illness. This approach
could substantially expand the abilities of Member States to protect the safety of their food
supplies against natural and accidental threats and provides a framework for addressing terrorist
threats to food.
1.1 Purpose
The purpose of this document is to provide policy guidance to Member States for integrating
consideration of deliberate acts of sabotage of food into existing prevention and response
programmes. Establishing and strengthening systems to address food terrorism, including
4
disease outbreak surveillance and investigation, precautionary measures and emergency response
systems, will give them a basic capacity to prevent and manage food safety emergencies,
including food sabotage. This document also supports strengthening of programmes that
underlie food production, processing and preparation to respond to food terrorism.
This document also describes the role of WHO, with its public health mandate, in responding to
food safety emergencies of significance to international public health, which include food
terrorist threats, and in providing assistance to Member States if their capacity to deal with such
incidents is overwhelmed.
1.2 Definitions and scope
Food terrorism is defined as an act or threat of deliberate contamination of food for human
consumption with chemical, biological or radionuclear agents for the purpose of causing injury
or death to civilian populations and/or disrupting social, economic or political stability. The
chemical agents in question are man-made or natural toxins, and the biological agents referred
to are communicably infectious or non-infectious pathogenic microorganisms, including viruses,
bacteria and parasites. Radionuclear agents are defined in this context as radioactive chemicals
capable of causing injury when present at unacceptable levels. This document covers all food
and includes water used in the preparation of food, as well as bottled water. However, water
supply is not included in this document.
This document focuses on terrorist acts by non-State entities against governments, organizations
and civilian populations and does not deal with acts of war perpetrated by one nation against
another with chemical, radionuclear or biological weapons. It includes consideration of all
means by which individuals seeking personal revenge or gain might deliberately contaminate
food, including local acts of sabotage. Terrorist threats to animal or plant health or to the
availability of food in sufficient quantity and variety to meet the nutritional needs of a population
are not addressed.
A number of conventions prohibit the signatories from using biological, chemical or radionuclear
weapons of mass destruction1. The objective of use of such agents by terrorists against a civilian
population is essentially the same as that of their use in warfare against military targets: to cause
widespread incapacitation and injury and to effect terror and panic. Civilian populations are
usually more vulnerable than military personnel to chemical, biological or radionuclear weapons
because they are of all ages and health status, whereas military personnel are generally healthy
adults. Furthermore, the latter are usually prepared for attack by training and in many cases
protected by immunization, prophylactics and protective clothing and devices. The potential
agents and circumstances of terrorist attacks in civilian settings are more diverse than those
directed at military personnel. As a result, rapid diagnosis and appropriate, readily available
treatment may be difficult to assure. Because of this diversity the agents used by terrorists may
be more readily obtainable than those used against military personnel.
1.3 Food as a vehicle for terrorist acts
There have been many instances where civilian food supplies have been sabotaged deliberately
throughout recorded history, during military campaigns and, more recently, to terrorize or
1 WHO. Public health response to biological and chemical weapons – WHO guidance – Projected second edition
of Health aspects of chemical and biological weapons: report of the WHO group of consultants, Geneva 1970,
republication issue for restricted distribution, November 2001.
5
otherwise intimidate civilian populations2. Deliberate contamination of food by chemical,
biological or radionuclear agents can occur at any vulnerable point along the food chain, from
farm to table, depending on both the food and the agent. For example, in 1984, members of a
religious cult contaminated salad bars in the USA with Salmonella typhimurium, causing 751
cases of salmonellosis. The attack appeared to be a trial run for a more extensive attack intended
to disrupt local elections. The cult was also in possession of strains of the causative organism
of typhoid fever, a severe invasive illness3. In 1996, a disgruntled laboratory worker deliberately
infected food to be consumed by colleagues with Shigella dysenteria type 2, causing illness in
12 people. Although few incidents or threats of deliberate contamination of food with chemical,
biological or radionuclear agents on a massive scale have been documented, it is prudent to
consider basic countermeasures.
The potential impact on human health of deliberate sabotage of food can be estimated by
extrapolation from the many documented examples of unintentional outbreaks of foodborne
disease. The largest, best-documented incidents include an outbreak of S. typhimurium infection
in 1985, affecting 170 000 people, caused by contamination of pasteurized milk from a dairy
plant in the USA4. An outbreak of hepatitis A associated with consumption of clams in
Shanghai, China, in 1991 affected nearly 300 000 people and may be the largest foodborne
disease incident in history5. In 1994, an outbreak of S. enteritidis infection from contaminated
pasteurized liquid ice cream that was transported as a pre-mix in tanker trucks caused illness in
224 000 people in 41 states in the USA6. In 1996, about 8 000 children in Japan became ill,
including some deaths, with Escherichia coli O157:H7 infection from contaminated radish
sprouts served in school lunches7.
Episodes of foodborne illness caused by chemicals have also been reported in the published
literature. The chemicals that can contaminate food include pesticides, mycotoxins, heavy metals
and other acutely toxic chemicals such as cyanide. In perhaps one of the most deadly incidents,
over 800 people died and about 20 000 were injured, many permanently, by a chemical agent
present in cooking oil sold in Spain in 19818. In 1985, 1 373 people in the USA reported
becoming ill after eating watermelon grown in soil treated with aldicarb9.
Contamination of food in one country can also have a significant effect on health in other parts
of the world. In 1989, staphylococcal food poisoning in the USA was associated with eating
mushrooms that had been canned in China10. Outbreaks of cyclosporiasis in the USA in 1996
2 Khan A. S., Swerdlow D. L., Juranek D. D. Precautions against biological and chemical terrorism directed at food
and water supplies. Public Health Rep 2001;116:3–14.
3 Torok T., Tauxe R. V., Wise R. P., et al. A large community outbreak of Salmonella caused by intentional
contamination of restaurant salad bars. J Am Med Assoc 1997;278:389–95.
4 Ryan C. A., Nickels M. K., Hargrett-Bean N. T., et al. Massive outbreak of antimicrobial-resistant salmonellosis
traced to pasteurised milk. J Am Med Assoc 1987;258:3269–74.
5 Halliday M. L., et al. An epidemic of hepatitis A attributable to the ingestion of raw clams in Shanghai, China.
J Infect Dis 1991;164:852–9.
6 Hennesy T. W., Hedberg C. W., Slutsker L., et al. A national outbreak of Salmonella enteritides infections from
ice cream. New Engl J Med 1996; 334:1281–6.
7 Mermin J. H., Griffin P. M. Invited commentary: public health crisis in crisis-outbreaks of Escherichia coli
O157:H7 in Japan. Am J Epidemiol 1999;150:797–803.
8 WHO Regional Office for Europe. Toxic oil syndrome: Mass food poisoning in Spain. Report of a WHO meeting,
Madrid, 21–25 May 1983, Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe 1984.
9 Green M. A., Heumann M. A., Wehr H. M., et al. An outbreak of watermelon-borne pesticide toxicity. Am J
Public Health 1987;77:1431–4.
10 Levine W. C., Bennet R. W., Choy Y., et al. Staphylococcal food poisoning caused by imported canned
mushrooms. J Infect Dis 1996;173:1263–7.
6
and 1997 were linked to consumption of Guatemalan raspberries11. Many similar outbreaks have
been reported in the literature.
1.4 Comparative risks of food and other media as vehicles for terrorist threats
Certain chemical and biological agents and radionuclear materials can be disseminated as smallparticle
aerosols or volatile liquids for the purposes of an airborne attack on civilian populations.
Such formulations have already been made as weapons for tactical or strategic use on the
battlefield. This mode of attack is, however, subject to major uncertainties, as air movements,
conditions in enclosed spaces, stability of the agent, particle size and dose needed to achieve an
effect. Similarly, effective deliberate contamination of reticulated water supplies presents other
challenges and limitations.
Deliberate contamination of food might, in some regards, be easier to control than attacks
through air or water. The safety of food is closely controlled in many developed countries, both
by the government and the private sector. Food safety infrastructures offer a means for
preventing and mitigating sabotage of the food supply. The dietary diversity available in many
developed countries also reduces the likelihood that the entire food supply would be
contaminated and would tend to dilute potential health effects. In addition, international food
safety initiatives and enhanced disease surveillance and response activities can be developed for
preventing and responding quickly to food terrorism. On the other hand, food is also the most
vulnerable to intentional contamination by debilitating or lethal agents. The diversity of sources
of foods, including the global market, makes prevention difficult, if not impossible. At the same
time, many developing countries lack basic food safety infrastructures and are vulnerable to
deliberate acts of sabotage.
1.5 Potential effects of food terrorism
1.5.1 Illness and death
The potential impact of contaminated food on human health from deliberate acts of sabotage can
be inferred from reports of unintended foodborne disease outbreaks, as outlined above. If an
unintentional outbreak from one food, such as clams, can affect 300 000 individuals, a concerted,
deliberate attack could be devastating, especially if a more dangerous chemical, biological or
radionuclear agent was used. Clearly, the potential health effects of a terrorist attack must be
taken seriously by the health community and by those responsible for assessing and countering
terrorist threats.
1.5.2 Economic and trade effects
Deliberate contamination of food may also have enormous economic implications, even if the
episode is relatively minor. In fact, economic disruption may be a primary motive for a
deliberate act, targeting a product, a manufacturer, an industry or a country. Mass casualties are
not required to achieve widespread economic loss and disruption of trade. Extortion threats
directed at specific organizations, particularly those in the commercial sector, are commoner than
is generally believed.
In an effort to damage Israel’s economy in 1978, citrus fruit exported to several European
countries was contaminated with mercury, which led to significant trade disruption. The alleged
11 Herwaldt B. L., Ackers M-L. Cyclospora working group. An outbreak in 1996 of cyclosporiasis associated with
imported raspberries. New Engl J Med 1997;336:1548–56.
7
contamination of Chilean grapes with cyanide in 1989 led to the recall of all Chilean fruit from
Canada and the USA, and the publicity surrounding this incident resulted in a boycott by
American consumers. The resulting damage amounted to several hundred million dollars and
more than 100 growers and shippers went bankrupt12. In 1998, a company in the USA recalled
14 million kilograms of frankfurters and luncheon meats potentially contaminated with Listeria.
The parent company closed the plant and estimated their total cost to be US$50–70 million13.
An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infection in the USA in 1997 resulted in the recall of 11 million
kilograms of ground beef14.
The crisis in Belgium in which dioxin-contaminated meat and dairy products were recalled
around the world demonstrates not only the extensive costs to individual countries, but also the
extent of disruption of global trade that can be caused by this type of incident. Consumer
concern about consumption of meat potentially affected by the agent responsible for bovine
spongiform encephalopathy and linked to the new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is still
disrupting trade world-wide, with costs yet to be calculated and a significant long-term impact
on meat production in many countries. The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the United
Kingdom in 2000 is another example of a major economic and trade dislocation.
Thus, deliberate sabotage of food could have serious economic and trade repercussions.
Industries in many sectors could be put out of business, and countries could experience severe
economic and trade disruption. In less developed countries, the economic consequences of a
terrorist act on food could also affect development and exacerbate poverty as well as food
availability.
1.5.3 Impact on public health services
Foodborne illness, whether intentional or otherwise, can also paralyse public health services.
The 1995 attack with nerve gas in on commuters on the Tokyo subway system, while not
foodborne, clearly illustrates the effects of a coordinated terrorist attack on an unsuspecting
population. This highly publicised attack caused the deaths of 12 people and led 5 000 people
to seek medical care. The response to the incident was prompt and massive, with 131
ambulances and 1 364 emergency technicians dispatched and 688 people transported to hospital
by emergency medical and fire services. More that 4 000 people found their own way to
hospitals and doctors15.
Many countries do not have the capacity to respond to such massive emergencies. The public
health service facilities for coping with these types of emergencies and for providing continuing
care may be strained to the limit. While many countries have some form of emergency response
plan, they usually do not include consideration of food safety. This gap in preparedness could
lead to misdiagnosis, incorrect laboratory investigations and failure to identify and detain
affected food. This would weaken or even preclude an effective response to a food sabotage
incident.
12 Root-Bernstein R. S. Infectious terrorism. Atlantic Monthly May 1991.
13 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Update: multi-state outbreak of listeriosis – United States, 1998–
1999. Morbid Mortal Wkly Rep 1999;47:1117–8.
14 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections associated with eating a
nationally distributed commercial brand of frozen ground beef patties and hamburgers: Colorado, 1997. Mortal
Morbid Wkly Rep 1997;46:77–8.
15 Okumura T. et al. Tokyo subway Sarin attack: disaster management. Part 2: hospital response. Academic
Emergency Medicine, 1998, 5:681-624
8
1.5.4 Social and political implications
Terrorists may have a variety of motives, from revenge to political destabilization. They may
target the civilian population to create panic and threaten civil order. As the response to mailing
of envelopes containing Bacillus anthracis in the USA showed, limited dissemination of
biological agents by simple means, causing few cases of illness, can cause considerable
disruption and public anxiety16. Fear and anxiety may contribute to reduced confidence in the
political system and government, and may therefore result in political destabilization. When the
effects are economic and lead to loss of income for some sectors of society, the political impact
can be exacerbated. Finally, while contamination of the entire food supply is unlikely, preexisting
food shortages could be worsened by deliberate contamination, again with an impact on
political and social stability.
1.6 Chemical and biological agents and radionuclear materials that could be used in food
terrorism
Access to chemical and biological agents and radionuclear materials that have been developed
as weapons is limited, and their production and stockpiling are controlled under specific treaties
and agreements17. However, more readily available toxic chemicals, including pesticides, heavy
metals and industrial chemicals as well as a plethora of naturally occurring microbiological
pathogens, could be used as agents in terrorist threats to food. Their effective use would depend
on their potential impact on human health, the food used for their dissemination and the point
of introduction into the food chain. The agents used could have acute effects, resulting in death,
paralysis or vomiting, or long-term consequences, such as fetal abnormalities and increased rates
of chronic illness such as cancer. Therefore, the latency period before any harm is manifested
also needs to be considered.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA have issued a list of critical
biological agents as a part of their strategic plan for preparedness for terrorist incidents18, but the
list does not include most chemical agents. Their approach, which consists of examining the
consequences of an attack, can be adapted for chemical and radionuclear agents. While this
approach is useful for an initial analysis of vulnerability, the risk posed by a specific agent in a
specific food may have to be examined on a case-by-case basis. Various parameters, such as the
fate of an agent under specific conditions, must be assessed to estimate the risk in particular
situations. The point of introduction of an agent into the food chain must also be considered to
ensure that the risk assessment remains valid and the response is appropriate to the threat.
1.7 Establishing and strengthening national prevention and response systems
Most countries have some form of emergency response system in place to respond to
catastrophic incidents such as earthquakes, floods or disease outbreaks that threaten the health
of the population. However, these response systems rarely include consideration of terrorism
and even more rarely include consideration of food as a vehicle for delivering harmful agents.
Such gaps in the capacity to prevent and respond to the broadest range of food safety
16 Sobel J., Khan A. S., Swerdlow K. L. Threat of biological terrorist attack on the US food supply: the CDC
perspective. Lancet 2002; 359:874-880.
17 WHO. Public health response to biological and chemical weapons – WHO guidance – Projected second edition
of health aspects of chemical and biological weapons: report of the WHO group of consultants, Geneva 1970,
republication issue for restricted distribution, November 2001.
18 Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Biological and chemical terrorism: strategic plan for preparedness
and response – recommendations of the CDC strategic planning workgroup. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2000; 49:1–14.
9
emergencies must be closed to ensure effective responses. Each Member State should consider
its own needs and priorities in respect of food terrorism to ensure that its measures are
proportional to its other public health priorities.
The two major strategies for countering the threat of food sabotage are prevention and response,
including preparedness. Chapter 2 outlines the preventive aspects that can be incorporated into
food safety programmes to meet the new threat of food sabotage and to assist governments in
working with the food industry to strengthen food safety and security during production,
processing and preparation. The food safety systems and infrastructure in place in many
countries to ensure the safety of the food supply, and thus reduce the burden of foodborne illness,
include safety management programmes for food production and processing. These could be
modified relatively simply to incorporate basic considerations to prevent food sabotage. The
food industry has the primary responsibility for assuring the safety of the food they produce, and
government agencies, working with the private sector, have regulatory and advisory
responsibility in promoting safe food measures by industry, including good agricultural and good
manufacturing practices.
Chapter 3 addresses the surveillance, preparedness and response elements specific to food safety,
to facilitate their inclusion in existing national emergency response plans and to achieve balance
between threats to food safety and other threats. Plans to respond to food safety emergencies
should complement, not replace, other critical activities, and resources should be allocated on
the basis of the nature and likelihood of such threats. Vulnerability should be assessed in order
to evaluate the most likely risks from food sabotage and set priorities for risk management.
Increased attention must be paid to risk communication, to reduce the likelihood of panic and
loss of public confidence.
For the purpose of this document, response includes all measures to identify, contain and
minimize the impact of a food terrorist incident. Once a terrorist attack is known or suspected
to have occurred, it is vital that the response to the situation be speedy and effective. Plans to
mitigate the effects of sabotage of the food supply should thus be incorporated within existing
emergency response systems. Separate systems would be wasteful of resources, especially as
there are many common elements of response to natural or accidental incidents that may threaten
public health. Nevertheless, a system for responding to food sabotage possesses some unique
aspects. For example, national emergency plans should incorporate laboratory capacity for
analysing uncommon agents in food. It should also have closer links with food tracing and recall
systems. The aspects specific to food are outlined in this document.
In Chapter 4, the current activities of WHO in this regard and a proposal for strengthening
collaboration to assure more effective alert and response systems for food terrorism are
presented. With the globalization of the world’s food supply, an attack on one country’s food
supply cannot be seen in isolation. Food is a major item of trade for many countries;
furthermore, most countries, including developing countries, are both importers and exporters
of food. Globalization of the world’s media assures that any terrorist attack on a nation’s food
supply will receive intense, and perhaps disproportionate, attention. Consequently, the response
to a terrorist threat to food will require collaboration with United Nations specialized agencies
such as WHO and FAO, and possibly other international organizations.
Developing countries have various levels of food safety infrastructure and alert and emergency
response systems, and they may require strengthening. Incomplete systems increase
vulnerability to foodborne disease. The guidelines given in this document should be considered
10
in the context of WHO’s existing mechanism for establishing and strengthening national
infrastructures for food safety.
1.8 Setting priorities
Member States face competing demands on their resources, and terrorist threats, including the
possibility of food terrorism, must be balanced against other priorities. Assessment at this level
may include consideration of the means and will to terrorize the civilian population and the
potential social, political and economic consequences of such threats. The resources allocated
to the public health sector must be commensurate with the magnitude and likelihood of threat.
However, as a matter of prudence, all countries should put in place basic contingency plans for
food safety emergencies.
Priority setting in the public health sector must include assessment of other health problems in
relation to food terrorism. Once a decision is taken to increase the capacity of the national
system to respond to food terrorist threats, the most vulnerable foods and food processes should
be identified, including:
 the most readily accessible food processes;
 foods that are most vulnerable to undetected tampering;
 foods that are the most widely disseminated or spread; and
 the least supervised food production areas and processes.
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2. Prevention
2.1 Introduction
As in all health and safety considerations, prevention is the most desirable option. In the context
of food terrorism, prevention means preventing the sabotage of food during production,
processing, distribution and preparation. While safeguarding chemical, biological or
radionuclear agents before they can be used is important, this chapter does not focus on the
individual agents that could be used to contaminate food. This chapter presents various
approaches for protecting food production systems to reduce the likelihood and impact of a
terrorist attack.
The key to preventing food terrorism is enhancing existing food safety programmes and
implementing reasonable security measures on the basis of assessments of vulnerability. The
deliberate introduction of a chemical, biological or radionuclear agent into food during
production, processing, distribution or preparation of food may be a relatively new threat for
industries and governments. As many production methods and food safety programmes are
proprietary, the food industry has both the responsibility and the capacity to reduce the likelihood
of deliberate contamination of food, from the raw materials to product distribution. Governments
should support industry in strengthening existing food safety management systems, to include
consideration of deliberate contamination. Governments also have a role in promoting
preventive food safety, through established voluntary and regulatory mechanisms19.
2.2 Existing systems
Many governments have, or are developing, food safety infrastructures to ensure that food
produced for domestic consumption meets acceptable safety criteria and that food produced for
export meets international food safety standards. Strengthening national food safety programmes
requires that national policies and resources to support the infrastructure are in place and that food
legislation, food monitoring and surveillance, food inspection, foodborne disease surveillance,
education and training are adequate and up to date. Proactive risk analysis can reduce
vulnerability in the same way as analysis of the risks of inadvertent contamination. The
resources allocated need to be proportional to the likelihood of the threat, the magnitude and
severity of the consequences and the vulnerability of the system. The possibility of intentional
contamination needs to be an integral part of safety considerations, and measures to prevent
sabotage should augment, not replace, other activities. Typical food safety management
programmes within the food industry include good agricultural practice, good manufacturing
practice and ‘hazard analysis and critical control point’ (HACCP) and HACCP-based systems.
As with other aspects of food safety programmes, priorities for action are determined by an
analysis of the hazards specific for each food operation. The risk should be analysed for each
link in the food chain, taking into consideration other country-specific issues, such as the
availability of chemical, biological or radionuclear agents. Consideration of the threats at each
link may include issues such as vulnerability to sabotage, opportunity for the introduction of an
agent and capacity to monitor deliberate contamination and to trace and recall suspect products.
This approach will enable effective prevention by focusing efforts and resources on the most
important threats.
Food can be contaminated deliberately by chemical, biological or radionuclear agents at any
point in the food chain (see Figure 1). Food safety management programmes offer opportunities
19 WHO. Guidelines for strengthening a national food safety programme. WHO/FNU/FOS/96.2. Geneva, 1996.
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for the prevention, detection and control of food sabotage. Understanding the relationships
between the production system, ingredients, people, utensils, equipment and machinery can help
in identifying where critical failures of the system might occur. Methods of sabotage and the
extent of a threat might be identified as a part of this analysis and would provide the basis for a
risk analysis.
Figure 1. General overview of the typical food chain
Agricultural production and harvesting
Storage and transport of raw commodities
Processing and manufacture
Storage and transport of processed and manufactured products
Wholesale and retail distribution
Food service sector
2.3 Strengthening food safety management programmes
Governments should work with industry to incorporate considerations of food terrorism into food
safety management programmes. Not all countries have the infrastructure needed to assist
industry, especially small, less developed businesses, to approach food production, processing
and preparation on the basis of food safety management principles. In the absence of such
infrastructure, it may be difficult to prevent deliberate contamination of the food supply. In such
situations, systems for rapid detection of and response to food terrorism may also be poorly
developed. Capacity building for such competence is vital for the prevention of both intentional
and unintentional contamination of food. The generic actions taken by government to assist
industry in this respect should include:
 cooperating with industry to develop protocols for assessing the vulnerability of individual
food businesses, including assessments of the site, security and personnel, and potential ways
in which food might be contaminated maliciously (see section 3.3.2);
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 ensuring that food safety is addressed and controls are coordinated at all links of the food
chain, including traceability and recall;
 cooperating with industry to strengthen the security of processes, people and products;
 providing industry with information on known or possible biological, chemical and
radionuclear agents;
 cooperating with industry to develop, implement, review and test crisis management plans;
and
 coordinating closely with industry in communicating with the public.
Prevention of terrorist attacks does not always require high technology or great expense.
Increased awareness of the problem and enhanced vigilance are among the effective measures
that can be taken. Awareness can be heightened by auditing food safety management
programmes. In the event of an incident, information from early surveillance could be shared
with the food industry to facilitate prompt action to address consumer concerns and contain and
mitigate the threat.
2.4 Prevention and response systems in the food industry
2.4.1 Role of the food industry
The capacity to prevent deliberate sabotage of food lies mainly with the food industry and must
be addressed throughout the food chain. Potential contamination with chemical and biological
agents and radionuclear materials and interruption of food supplies need to be considered in
assessments of food safety management programmes. Whether a food safety management
programme is rudimentary or well developed, further elaboration should focus on the nature and
extent of the threat. The response needs to be proportional to the identified threat.
Food production systems range from farms, with goods marketed to neighbouring communities,
to large corporations with global production and distribution systems. Many foods, such as fish,
meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables, are consumed with minimal processing. Others, such as
cereal products and cooking oils, undergo considerable processing before reaching the consumer.
The production system and the steps vulnerable to attack will therefore be different for each type
of food. Often, it is the interfaces between components of the chain, where food changes hands,
that are the most vulnerable to sabotage. The potential for intentional contamination of products
is likely to increase as the point of contamination nears the points of production and distribution.
However, the potential for greater individual morbidity or mortality usually increases as the
agent is introduced closer to the point of consumption.
The Appendix to this document Specific Measures for Consideration by the Food Industry
provides guidance to industry for strengthening food safety management programmes to prevent
both inadvertent and intentional contamination of food with harmful agents. However, this
Appendix is not meant to mandate action but to offer a spectrum of actions that could be
considered by industry in a manner proportional to the perceived threat. Small and medium size
industry will need to set priorities for implementation as resources permit.
Opportunities for deliberate contamination of food can be minimized by increasing the security
of people and premises. All segments of the food industry could develop security and response
plans for their establishments, proportional to the threat and their resources. Sources of raw
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materials and storage facilities and transport systems might have to be safeguarded. Access to
all critical areas in production, processing, transport and storage could be controlled and
documented to minimize opportunities for contamination.
Employers could consider screening their staff to ensure that their qualifications and background
are compatible with their work and responsibilities. Sanitation, maintenance and inspection
workers, who have access to critical areas, could also be vetted from a security perspective. All
staff could be encouraged to report suspicious behaviour and activities to the appropriate
authorities. However, such encouragement should be qualified to prevent false or unwarranted
reports for the purpose of harassment.
2.4.2 Agricultural production and harvesting
Recent incidents of contamination of bovine feed with the causative agent of bovine spongiform
encephalitis and contamination of poultry feed with dioxins illustrate the national and
international effects that inadvertent contamination has had on human and animal health,
consumer confidence and national economies. Many animal feed ingredients are important on
the international market. Safety assurance systems could be included in the control of animal
feed and feed ingredients. Security measures, such as control of access and tamper-resistant or
tamper-evident systems, such as tape or wax seals, could be considered during manufacture,
transport and storage. Mechanisms for tracing and recall of animal feeds and animal feed
ingredients could be considered, where feasible.
Agricultural production areas vary from those of smallholdings to those of very large commercial
farms and feedlots. While emphasis has heretofore been on production efficiency, recent
programmes to promote good agricultural practice explicitly include concern for food safety.
Agricultural production areas are vulnerable to deliberate contamination. Attention should be
paid to possible substitution of pesticides with more toxic agents and contamination of irrigation
water. Subsequent processing may include critical control points for the detection and control
of inadvertent or deliberate contamination. As fruits and vegetables are consumed directly, with
minimal processing, there are few critical control points for detection or removal of
contamination. The many incidents of inadvertent contamination of meat, fish, poultry, and milk
products with pathogenic microorganisms during production are clear indications of the
vulnerability of these commodities.
The point of introduction of raw materials into the processing stream is a critical control point
in most processing operations. Good agricultural practice (including use of HACCP-like
systems) is being implemented in many primary production areas. Coupled with routine
inspections, these can greatly reduce the likelihood of inadvertent or deliberate contamination.
Certain harvesting practices, such as open-air drying, offer opportunities for deliberate
contamination. Controlling access to and monitoring of agricultural production areas could be
considered, particularly in response to known or likely threats. Sources of raw materials with
secure operations could be used whenever possible. Since analysis for all possible threats is
impossible, emphasis could be placed on determining deviations from normal characteristics.
The potential for deliberate contamination could be considered in sampling and analysis of the
final processed products. Appropriate follow-up, such as recall and tracing back for
contamination, are necessary in the case of all deviations that may indicate contamination.
2.4.3 Processing and manufacture
The possibility of deliberate contamination must be included in food safety programmes for food
processing and manufacture. The slaughterhouse stage in the food production chain can be
15
vulnerable, particularly if it is not covered by food safety management programmes or
comparable systems. The water used in food processing is an important consideration,
particularly for minimally processed foods such as fruits and vegetables, where washing is often
the only processing step. Approaches similar to those used those for drinking-water systems,
including analysis, could be applied. It is important to prevent and respond to attacks on water
for food industry use, as would be the case for drinking water supply. Protection and inspection
of facilities, including water sources, are particularly important as they may be located some
distance from the food processing plant. Air systems in processing plants could also be sources
of inadvertent or deliberate contamination. In many food-processing systems, heat treatment is
a critical control point for microbiological contaminants. From the point of view of deliberate
contamination, the normal time and temperature treatments at these control points might not be
adequate for all microbiological agents that could be used and would have little or no effect on
reducing contamination by toxic chemicals.
Access to all critical areas and equipment, including storage areas and water and air systems,
could be controlled and monitored. Closed systems are often perceived to be less vulnerable and
are therefore often subject to less surveillance. However, they could be considered in assessing
terrorist threats. Personal items, such as lunch containers, could be prohibited from critical areas.
2.4.4 Storage and transport
Even though storage facilities for raw agricultural commodities range from the open air to large
elevators and the means of transport range from human portage to large ocean-going vessels,
some precautions are generally applicable. Physical measures, such as fencing and locks, can
be used to secure and prevent unauthorized access to storage facilities and transport containers.
These could be supplemented with on-site security personnel, intrusion detectors and alarms.
If resources permit, silent alarms linked to the appropriate authorities or remote-controlled
television surveillance could be introduced. Tamper-resistant and tamper-evident packaging for
larger lots as well as for single packages could be considered. All returned products could be
carefully examined before reshipment.
International and domestic transport of food is being handled increasingly in containers, except
in the case of bulk food shipments, in which the food commodity, such as grain, is loaded
directly into the conveyance. Tamper-resistant or tamper-evident locks or seals on containers
can be improvised from materials such as annotated tapes and waxes, which are widely available.
Temperature controls and monitoring devices on refrigerated containers could be constructed to
prevent unauthorized access.
2.4.5 Wholesale and retail distribution
While tamper-resistant and tamper-evident containers have proved to be extremely useful in
reducing deliberate contamination, all such containers are vulnerable to individuals who know
how to penetrate the protective measures. Controlled access and greater vigilance, including
cameras and other types of surveillance, may be needed to increase security.
Bulk foods are particularly vulnerable to deliberate contamination in many markets. More secure
containers for bulk foods and use of pre-packaged materials could be considered to prevent
deliberate contamination. Wholesale and retail managers could use reliable suppliers.
Substitution of sub-standard food products for products of greater value (counterfeiting) occurs
in most parts of the world, and this activity has included use of false labels and replaced
ingredients. In some cases the replaced ingredients were contaminated with toxic chemicals.
The same approach could be used to distribute sabotaged products. Buyers should be suspicious
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of food being sold under unusual circumstances, such as at much lower prices than normal or
outside normal distribution channels.
2.4.6 Food service
Food service operations have already been the target of criminal attacks. Condiments in open
containers in restaurants and institutional settings are vulnerable to deliberate contamination.
Increased monitoring of salad bars and other communal food displays may be necessary to deter
deliberate contamination. Automatic dispensing equipment, including vending machines, may
also be vulnerable to contamination. Consideration could be given to increased surveillance and
additional tamper-resistant and tamper-evident devices.
As for inadvertent contamination, washing and cooking food adequately before consumption
could be emphasized. Careful attention could be given to tamper-resistant or tamper-evident
seals. When the integrity of a seal or a container is in doubt or the food product does not meet
the usual expectations of quality, such as an abnormal appearance, odour or taste, it should not
be purchased or consumed. If tampering is suspected, food service personnel could be
encouraged and provided with a means of notifying (for example phone number on the label) the
retailer or supplier and the appropriate public health and law enforcement authorities.
2.4.7 Tracing systems and market recalls
Many foods are produced at centralized facilities and distributed over large geographical areas,
often globally. Contamination at such facilities can affect large numbers of people, and exposure
may be widespread before the outbreak is detected. Rapid determination of the source of
contamination and localization of the contaminated product can greatly reduce the number of
casualties, by facilitating rapid removal of the contaminated products from the market.
Withdrawal back to the point in the processing chain where the contamination occurred is
essential for protecting the public from terrorist threats.
Tracing systems and market recalls are thus critical in responding to food contamination, whether
deliberate or inadvertent. However, tracing systems for contaminated products are not always
simple, as evidenced by the dioxin crisis in Belgium and several other food safety emergencies.
Many agriculture production systems are not suited to adopt mechanisms for recall. Raw
agricultural products produced on small farms are usually co-mingled and combined with other
co-mingled lots to form larger shipments. Thus, in most cases, it is difficult to identify the
producer of a contaminated shipment. For raw materials, the extent of recall must depend on
consideration of the resources required for tracing and market recall compared with the resources
needed for analysis and other measures for determining safety at the critical control point of the
processing stream.
2.4.8 Monitoring
Monitoring programmes can include a range of approaches, from careful visual examination to
high technology in-line detection systems. As with inadvertent contamination, it is virtually
impossible, both technically and economically, to carry out analyses for all agents all the time.
In many cases, indicators of non-specific variations in product specifications raise concern.
Resources for routine monitoring might therefore be appropriately allocated for specific
products, processes and handling situations. Rapid follow-up is essential if variation in product
specifications is seen that could indicate deliberate contamination. Public health officials could
17
work closely with commercial and other private sector organizations, where possible, in
developing appropriate monitoring programmes.
2.5 Reducing access to chemical and biological agents and radionuclear materials
Limiting access to chemical and biological agents and radionuclear materials that could be used
to contaminate the food supply deliberately can contribute to counterterrorism. While some
agents developed as weapons by military forces could be used to contaminate food, relatively
common chemicals and pathogens may pose more significant threats to food. Highly toxic
pesticides and industrial chemicals, including chemical waste, are available in most areas of the
world. Pathogenic microbiological agents are present in clinical and other laboratories, including
laboratories involved in food control. University-level knowledge of chemistry or microbiology
is sometimes sufficient to make effective amounts of many agents. Radionuclear materials are
widely available for medical research.
Guidance already exists on the safety and security of laboratory materials20. Governments and
commercial organizations should increase the security of stores of toxic drugs, pesticides,
radionuclear materials and other chemicals and immediately report any theft or other
unauthorized diversion to the proper authorities. Greater effort should be made to control the
availability of microbiological pathogens. It is critical that clinical, research and food control
laboratories be aware of this potential and take appropriate security measures to minimize the
risk that such materials are diverted.
The development, production and use of chemical and biological agents as weapons are covered
by international and national laws and agreements. These are essential to protect the public
against hostile release of such agents. WHO has developed advice to mitigate the consequences
should such a release of this nature take place21.
2.6 Prevention at points of entry
Quarantine and customs agencies contribute to preventing food safety emergencies by controlling
the entry of contaminated food into importing countries. However, in most countries that rely
significantly on imported food, it would be virtually impossible to inspect and analyse all
shipments. Linkages must be set up between all food safety sectors, including the authorities in
the country of origin, quarantine and customs officials, food importers, food safety agencies and
state security authorities, in order to set priorities and to enhance inspection and monitoring.
2.7 Useful source material
All possible scenarios of food sabotage cannot be described in this document. Credible risks
need to be considered at every point in the food chain to ensure the safety of the food produced.
A number of useful documents prepared by certain Member States22,23,24 and industries25 offer
20 WHO. Safety in health care laboratory. WHO/LAB/97.1. Geneva.
21 WHO. Public health response to biological and chemical weapons – WHO guidance – Projected second
edition of health aspects of chemical and biological weapons: report of the WHO group of consultants, Geneva
1970, republication issue for restricted distribution, November 2001.
22 Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Notice to food processors and distributors, suggestions for improving
security. www.inspection.gc.ca/english/ops/secur/protrae.shtml.
23 Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Notice to food retailers, suggestions for improving security.
www.inspection.gc.ca/english/ops/secur/retdete.shtml.
24 Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Notice to livestock operations, suggestions for improving security.
www.inspection.gc.ca/english/ops/secur/livebete.shtml-
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examples and guidance for analysing risks in the production and processing of specific foods.
The documents also provide advice and examples to the food industry for incorporating
considerations of terrorist threats within existing food safety management programmes. Not all
of these documents will be applicable in their entirety to smaller, developing businesses, but the
general principles of assessing vulnerability apply across all businesses and sectors26,27.
25 Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Food safety and security:
operational risk management systems approach (ORM), November 2001. Washington DC: Department

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