Monday, June 13, 2011

Food chain at risk of being poisoned by terrorist groups - Telegraph

Escherichia coli: Scanning electron micrograph...Image via Wikipedia
Manufacturers and retailers have been told that their sector is vulnerable to attacks by ideologically and politically motivated groups that may seek to cause widespread casualties and disruption by poisoning food supplies.
The warning from the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure [CPNI], which operates as part of the Security Service, comes as experts warned the deadly E.coli outbreak in Germany has highlighted the vulnerability of the food chain and how quickly bacteria can spread.
The highly virulent strain has claimed 18 lives and left more than 1,800 seriously ill, with the true number of cases expected to be far higher.
A senior German doctor last night called for an investigation into the possibility that the bacteria had been spread deliberately.
Klaus-Dieter Zastrow, chief doctor for hygiene at Berlin’s Vivantes hospital, said: “It’s quite possible that there’s a crazy person out there who thinks 'I’ll kill a few people or give 10,000 people diarrhoea’. It’s a negligent mistake not to investigate in that direction.”
In the past, the main threat of deliberate contamination of food has been from criminals attempting extortion or from individuals with a grudge, but security officials fear there is an emerging threat from extremist groups such as al-Qaeda, dissident republicans in Northern Ireland and animal rights activists.
The CPNI has asked food and drinks producers, suppliers and supermarkets to tighten security at plants and depots and to identify vulnerabilities in supply chains.
One official from the CPNI spoke about the threat at a meeting of food safety experts. Addressing a conference of the Society for General Microbiology, he said: “The UK suffers from a low level of malicious contamination of food by the bad, the mad and the sad. Now it has to consider the possibility of food supplies being disrupted by politically motivated groups.”
The E.coli outbreak is thought to have been caused by poor hygiene at a farm, in transit, or at a food outlet.
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