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Food Protection Message - October 2015

Friday, October 30, 2015

Food Protection Forum Speakers

1080. Most people when they hear this number are going to think that you are talking about the resolution of your TV.  For those in New Zealand this number can provoke a very different reaction – anger and disbelief.  A year ago this month a terrorist(s) threatened Fonterra and Federated Farmers Inc. with contamination of their infant formula with 1080—the potent rodenticide—if they didn’t convince the New Zealand government to stop using the rodenticide by March of 2015.  New Zealand has used 1080 to control their non-indigenous population of possums and other invasive rodents for a number of years. It is also used in the U.S. to protect sheep and goats from coyotes.

Historically, New Zealand has been immune to incidents of intentional adulteration.  However, this event left most in the country with shock and astonishment that someone would consider it reasonable to advance their personal agenda by threatening the lives of infants.  Having recently recovered from a food safety concern of potentially contaminated whey protein concentrate (WPC) and now dealing with a threat from a terrorist, the concern over possible future food protection events intensified within the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). To better prepare the Government and the Food Industry and prevent future incidents, MPI organized a Food Protection Forum last month, bringing together government officials, food industry managers, and academics with expertise in food protection.  FPDI was privileged to be invited with Frank Yiannas (VP Food Safety Walmart), Jim Flannery (Senior Exec VP of Operations and Industry Collaboration, GMA), John Keogh (President and Managing Principle, Shantalla Inc.), Dr. John Spink (Director and Assistant Professor, Food Fraud Initiative, Michigan State University), and Prof. Alan Reilly (Adjunct Professor, Institute of Food and Health, University College, Dublin and former Chief Executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland) to speak at the forum.  The Honorable Jo Goodhew (New Zealand’s Minister of Food Safety, Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Associate Minister for Social Development, and MP of Rangitata) and Vice Minister Teng Jiacai (China Food and Drug Administration, CFDA) opened the forum by highlighting the steps each country was making to improve their food safety program.  Excellent discussions on food safety culture, monitoring for food adulteration, intentional adulteration, food fraud, information transparency, development of operational safety accountability programs, and food safety capability needs for the dairy sector took place on the first day.  The second day consisted of a Food Integrity Workshop where active discussions took place on technological advances in food authenticity (traceability) and transparency, which included the possibility of a New Zealand Government endorsed authentication mark.  

During the second day the group was informed that the New Zealand Government had (after a year’s pursuit) arrested a man in his 60’s in conjunction with the 1080 threat.  The courts are not releasing any information about the individual, but it appears he acted alone and was motivated by the possibility of financial gain.  I’m sure having received this little bit of closure to the 1080 terrorist threat helped in some way foster the overwhelming expectation at the end of the meetings that the collaborative relationships developed between the Government and the Food Industry prior to and during the meetings will support the development of standards, policies, and guidelines resulting in a New Zealand food safety system ready to deal with future events such as 1080.

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Dr. John W. Larkin is the Research Director of the Food Protection and Defense Institute, a Department of Homeland Security Center of at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Larkin leads the Institute’s expert research team and global food protection initiatives. He oversees the FPDI research portfolio to include the development and implementation of the Institute’s research strategy.