Monday, March 09, 2009

FOOD TAMPERING & POISONING IN THE REAL WORLD

When it comes to assessing the likelihood of terrorists striking our country's food supply, exaggeration and hyperbole have always ruled the day. For a graphic example of what the discussion has typically been like, consider this post describing one famously awful and embarrassing US government-sponsored food security industry get-together on the topic a couple years ago.

So it comes as a bit of surprise when one sees something realistic, an assessment not larded down with goofball intelligence-insulting PowerPoint slides designed to bash the audience over the head with tales of approaching doom. Sadly, it's not a surprise to see that it comes from overseas, where others may not be so influenced by the rotted and broken quality of American threat assessment.

And that brings us to G. R. Dalziel's "Food Defense Incidents: 1950-2008: A Chronology and Analysis of Incidents Involving the Malicious Contamination of the Food Supply Chain." Presented by the Centre for Excellence in National Security at Nanyang Tech in Singapore, it is here.

As a tabulation of incidents of poisoning around the world, it is packed with interestingly monstrous vignettes on the blackmailing, revenge-minded and psychotic poisoner's of the world (and the wanna-be's). The reader learns "Ana Luyong sold cassava fritters laced with insecticide to a group of schoolchildren in SE Philippines. Initially denying it, she said that the type of cassava used has a particularly high level of naturally occurring cyanide, but tests found Coumaphos, [an] organophosphate insecticide on frying pans and cooking oil." Twenty-eight died and 130 were injured in 2005.

"In 2005, glass and needles were found in at least five loaves of Kingsmill brand bread loaves, apparently contaminated in the factory, in the United Kingdom."

Happily, the monograph devotes no time to one of our favorite national security hobbies, predicting what would be easy for terrorists.

"In the United States, food borne illnesses resulting from food safety breakdowns are estimated to kill 5,000 and hospitalize 300,000 every year," it reads near the end. "The World Health Organization estimates that food and waterborne diarrhoeal diseases ... kill approximately 1.8 million people annually ... This is in contrast to the 391 fatalities 4,355 injuries since 1950 from malicious food contamination ...

"Certainly an historical absence of evidence does not preclude suppositions that terrorists may intentionally contaminate the food supply ... What it does tell us is 'that undertaking a major attack on the food chain is much more difficult than at first it may be believed.'"

And your host even makes an appearance with a pithy quote on page 7.


Recently:

The Annals of Eat S--- And Die

No Solution is the Solution

Looking the other way on food and drug contamination -- as a national practice.

Feigning interest in fixing food protection

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