NCFPD was established when our country found itself…attacked. We had been hit in the homeland via air through previously unimaginable ways. This Center was created to bring an “all hands on deck” approach to protecting and defending the nation from attacks to our food system. Through the years we have recognized that our research and outreach has great benefit when applied to protecting the food system from any intentional adulteration—whether it is an act of terrorism, economically motivated, or by a disgruntled employee. Our collective work within the consortium tackles the vulnerabilities within our food system, including those that could be exposed by an intentional adulteration.
The further we find ourselves from the events of 9/11 and Amerithrax, the more complacent we risk becoming as a country. We resume normal activities and question safeguards put in place after 9/11. I believe a healthy debate should continually occur on how much we spend or sacrifice to buy down the risk of a low probability/high consequence threat, including taking your shoes off at the airport. On the other hand, I caution against losing our edge in defending the nation and its food system from intelligent adversaries.
This has become evidently clear this past month with the attacks in France. In mid-November a video published by an ISIS media group reportedly narrated by a French jihadi identified as Abu Salman al-Faranci called for attacks in France. He offered attack advice, which included stating, “poison is available, so poison the water and food of at least one of the enemies of Allah. Kill them and spit in their faces and run over them with your cars.” Additionally police found recipes for poison purportedly capable of killing a million people in terrorist Amedy Coulibaly’s possession. Coulibaly is accused of killing a French police officer and killing four more people at a kosher grocery store.
As we enter the new year, I look forward to collaborating with you to build solutions that mitigate threats to our food system through our research, education, and outreach.
Amy Kircher, DrPH is the Director of the National Center for Food Protection and Defense, A Homeland Security Center of Excellence.