3 August 2007

Global Food Trade A Target For Terrorists, Conference Told

by Kate Melville

A food industry conference has been told that the global food system is an inviting target for terrorists. "You can't buy a hamburger without touching the global system," said Col. John T. Hoffman, speaking at the Institute of Food Technologists Global Food Safety & Quality conference. He added that because the food industry is becoming an increasingly complex global network of supply chains, the need for security collaboration between public and private trade partners has never been more pressing.

Hoffman cited the recent pet food contamination scare as a tremendous wake-up call regarding potential risks, and dealing outside the regulations of our own borders - especially with a major trading force like China. "This really was an unsophisticated case of some suppliers in China trying to save some money with a new ingredient, but the fallout was significant," Hoffman said.

Specific areas of security that need heightened focus include surveillance and supply chain verification and validation, an effort that Hoffman urges businesses to initiate.

"The global food supply is interconnected," stressed Marc Ostfield, a senior advisor for bioterrorism, biodefense and health security at the U.S. Department of State who also spoke at the conference. Ostfield said that international food networks were a "soft target for terrorists," and the threat of bioterrorism was "a mandate to move forward."

But Ostfield admitted that the private sector may find it challenging to balance profitability with food safety concerns. "How does enhanced food defense not interfere with growing economies? How can we make them complementary and not contradictory?" he asked.

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Source: Institute of Food Technologists