The Best Offense Is a Good Defense
Indiana Epidemiology Newsletter
ISDH Food Protection Program Project
Targets Food Safety and Security
Travis Goodman, BS
Food Defense Program Coordinator-South
Since September 11, 2001, we have become painfully aware that the U.S. is susceptible to intentional acts of terrorism. The enemy we now face does not directly meet us on the battlefield but chooses an asymmetrical type of warfare, which may include biological, chemical, or radiological weapons of mass destruction that are disseminated in new ways. For this reason, we must focus on raising our “index of suspicion” and think outside the box to be able to detect, diagnose, and eliminate any threats to public health as soon as possible to minimize the spread of illness and mortality.
On December 3, 2004, outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said, “I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do.” The possibility of intentional attacks on our food supply is real and must not be ignored. Since more than 80 percent of all food safety and food defense activities are performed at the State or local levels, it is clear that we are on the front lines of protecting our food and agriculture infrastructure. Consequently, we must work diligently to be prepared to: prevent an incident, protect the food and agriculture supply, effectively respond to an incident, and aid in recovery efforts after an incident.
The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) has been developing the Food Defense Project since June 2003. Two full-time Food Defense Coordinators have been coordinating this project for the ISDH. The project has primarily focused on food defense (intentional contamination of food) but has also incorporated many food safety efforts, because they are also related to a safe and secure food supply. The purpose of the Food Defense Project is to protect the Indiana food and agriculture system from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies. This will be accomplished by focusing on the entire system, utilizing a farm-to-fork protection strategy.
The ISDH initially focused on encouraging the food industry to implement food security preventive measures outlined in the federal guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Now the focus also includes response and recovery. In accordance with other federal guidance outlined in Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-8, HSPD-9, and Department of Homeland Security Target Capability-14, ISDH efforts have been categorized into four critical areas: prevention, protection, response, and recovery. The following provides a brief summary of what the ISDH has accomplished in these four critical areas to further protect the Indiana food and agriculture system. In addition, other Indiana stakeholders, such as the Indiana Board of Animal Health, Department of Agriculture, and Purdue University, have accomplished many additional food and agriculture defense efforts.
- Identified Indiana food and agriculture protection and defense stakeholders and established the Indiana Food Safety and Defense Task Force in 2003. This task force meets three times each year and serves as a forum for discussion on food and agriculture protection issues and provides guidance to the ISDH Food Defense Coordinators.
- Distributed FDA and USDA food security preventive measures guidance to 934 Indiana food processors in 2003.
- Distributed FDA food security preventive measures guidance to food safety/public health preparedness staff in Indiana’s 94 local health departments in 2004.
- Conducted a food security preventive measures assessment survey of 934 Indiana food processors in 2004.
- Conducted a food security preventive measures assessment survey of Indiana confined-animal feeding operations in January 2006.
- Since March 2006, the ISDH has been conducting a food security preventive measures survey of 1,500 Indiana retail food establishments with a target completion date of March 2008.
- Meet with ISDH Public Health Preparedness District Councils as well as local health department food safety staff to raise awareness of food defense issues.
- Developed and distributed food defense focus areas fact sheets to Indiana food processors based on the food security preventive measures assessment survey results.
- Completed over 80 food defense field consultations with Indiana food processors to help them develop a food security plan and implement food shields and mitigation strategies to deter intentional food contamination at their facilities.
- Attempted to collaborate with the Indiana insurance trade groups on return on investments for food producers, processors, and distributors that implement food security preventive measures.
- The ISDH sponsored a food defense tabletop exercise in March 2005. Over 100 government, industry, and academic stakeholders attended the exercise, which involved responding to an incident of intentional contamination at an Indiana food processor. Lessons learned from the after-action report will be addressed in the ISDH Food Emergency Response Plan.
- The ISDH sponsored a measured response computer simulation training exercise with Purdue University in July 2005. The lessons learned from this exercise will also be used to help with development of the ISDH Food Emergency Response Plan.
- The Food Defense Program Coordinators are developing an ISDH Food Emergency Response Plan to address incidents that overwhelm resources for effective response.
- The ISDH is developing a post-incident recovery plan for the food industry based on lessons learned from previous food contamination incidents.
- The ISDH is addressing the need for developing a plan for disposing of contaminated food or animal material both during and after an incident. This will be included in the Food Emergency Response Plan