Throughout history, food has been used as a delivery mechanism to incapacitate enemies. Today this threat remains, as intentional food contamination plots are uncovered with surprising frequency. Due to the nature of the globally distributed and highly integrated food systems, the rapidentification of an assault to the system is an ongoing challenge. Threats come in many forms from Mother Nature and system failures to intentional contamination from economic motivations, criminals, or terrorists. Recent examples of intentional contamination are of grave concern to the U.S. and global populations as food is one infrastructure that nobody can opt out of. People can take themselves out of other threat equations by not flying or choosing not to live by a nuclear power plant; however, food is necessary for survival.
The United States has made monumental improvements in preparing for a disaster in the homeland since the terror attacks of 9/11 and Amerithrax. This includes significant efforts in education, training, and exercising the first responder community to respond to multiple hazards that threaten the nation. This report takes another crucial step in preparing the responder community for threats from intentional contamination of the food supply. The food defense roundtable discussion and survey responses from DomPrep’s multi-discipline readership highlight the critical work that must continue to prepare the nation’s communities for an intentional attack on the food system.
Amy Kircher is the director of the National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD), a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence and an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota. She leads a talented staff and coordinates a research consortium of experts dedicated to protecting the food system through research and education. Her current research include sentification and warning of food disruptions through data fusion and analysis. Before coming to the University of Minnesota, she held epidemiologist positions at NORAD – U.S. Northern Command and with the United States Air Force, where she worked on health informatics, biosurveillance, and data analytics. She has an extensive background in homeland security and defense, supporting preparedness and response for real-world and exercise events to include Hurricane Katrina and H1N1. She completed her Doctorate in Public Health at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.