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.