Food Chain Radio Show #1094

Listen to this Food Chain Radio Show hosted by Michael Olson

Michael Olson, Author & Urban Farming Agriculturalist

Food as Weapons of Bioterrorism

This Poll is closed

Do you think food will be used as a weapon of terror?

 Not likely  Likely



Guest: Hank Parker, Ph.D Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology Georgetown University Author, Containment

Will food be used again as a weapon of terror?

Let’s start with what we know:

Michael Olson Food Chain Radio – Will food be used as a weapon against the United States?

Michael Olson Food Chain Radio – Will food be used as a weapon of bioterrorism against the United States?

We know there are periodic accidental contaminations of food that cause widespread sickness and death. Examples include the recent Salmonella outbreak in Chipotle locations across the country and the Colorado cantaloupes contaminated with Listeria that killed 33.

But what about deliberate contaminations?

We know that in 1984 followers of the guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh contaminated the salad bars of 10 restaurants in The Dalles, Oregon with Salmonella in order to incapacitate voters so their own candidates could win the Wasco County elections. 751 people were sickened and 45 were hospitalized.

We know that in 2001 letters containing anthrax were sent to public officials and news organizations, killing five and infecting 17 others. After a 9 year investigation, the FBI identified a scientist at the government’s biodefense labs as the culprit.

But what about the country’s enemies using food as a deliberate weapon of terror?

We know that when U.S. forces raided a warehouse in Afghanistan in 2002, they found documents describing ways to use biological weapons to attack American agriculture in ways that would cause widespread bioterrorism and economic damage.

What we do know leads us to ask…

Leave a comment below: Will food be used as a weapon of bioterrorism against the United States?

Tune in here, for the syndicated Food Chain Radio Show #1094 March 4, 2017 Saturday 9AM Pacific 

Nationally syndicated Food Chain Radio airs live Saturday mornings 9-10AM Pacific

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  1. A Large Animal Veterinarian says:

    Dalles, Oregon was an attempt to sway a small town election by pouring a salmonella culture, grown by a microbiologist who was a cult member, over salad bar ingredients. She and her group hoped to sicken local voters so they would not turn out to vote, leaving only the Cult’s candidate to be elected to a town board. This is an example of a very small, localized bioterror attack. Basically “small potatoes” or “lone wolf”.

    Given the level of physical security; processing steps such as cooking, pasteurization and irradiation; and lab testing prior to distribution, in most mass-production food plants, it would be very difficult, now, to use actual “food” to inflict widespread human illness and death to the extent desired by any organized terrorist organization.

    No, “food” itself is not likely to be used, as you ask, “as a weapon of bioterrorism against the United States”.

    I hope that neither Mr. Olson nor Dr. Parker are intending to leave the impression with listeners that terrorists could use food ingredients or prepared foods as a mechanism to inflict widespread panic and terror. Can it be done, Yes. But not easily.

    There is a much more consequential way to “use”, as you say above, “biological weapons to attack American agriculture in ways that would cause widespread bioterrorism and economic damage”.

    An intentional attack on the live animal production end of the food chain, i.e. by introducing devastating non-US animal diseases at beef feed lots, dairy farms or large swine facilities, would immediately disrupt the national food ingredient SUPPLY, particularly of proteins. It would result in huge, long term economic costs and market impacts. Government at all levels would be stressed to the limits.

    So-called “Foreign Animal Diseases” or “Trans-boundry Diseases” like Foot and Mouth Disease or African Swine Fever viruses, are easily smuggled into the US because the smallest of samples will survive outside of live-animal hosts. These agents could be disbursed in a coordinated or disseminated attack against our livestock industry. “Google” FMD in the UK in 2001 and the 2015 outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in the Midwestern US. These are examples of what it took in terms of animals lost, manpower, time and costs spread across entire economies to control the ACCIDENTAL introduction of pathogens into production agriculture.

    Being able to RAPIDLY TRACK THE SPREAD of any foreign animal disease is critical to containment and recovery.

    This program’s support of the anti-National Animal Identification System ( and others) several years ago did not enhance our RAPID response capability. Instead, by encouraging and giving voice to a small band of contrarians, it contributed to the loss of an important disease fighting tool from our national arsenal.

    This comment, from late 2004, by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson is as true and concerning to professionals in the field of animal disease response, such as myself, today, as it was 13 years ago: news services
    updated 12/3/2004 9:42:55 PM ET
    WASHINGTON — Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson resigned Friday, warning of a potential global outbreak of the flu and health-related terrorist attacks. “For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do,” he said.

  2. A Large Animal Veterinarian says:

    Very well done presentation!

    Having responded to the 2001 UK event for many months, I know firsthand of the devastation endured in the countryside, both animal and human.

    Dr. Parker forgot to mention that FMD research now conducted on a relatively isolated island – Plum – reached only by a ferry off the New York coastline will soon be moved to the new National Bio-Ag Facility (NBAF) located smack in the middle of beef country, Manhattan, Kansas.

    The new lab sits perhaps 200 feet from the main office of the Kansas Department of Agriculture and mere yards from K-State’s beef, dairy and swine herds, not to mention thousands of privately owned susceptible animals within just a few miles.

    It used to be that it was illegal to have live FMD virus on the US mainland. Apparently, no more. The NBAF will house virulent strains of FMD, and experimentally infected animals, within it’s “”hopefully”” secure biocontainment facility.

    All we can do is pray there is never a catastrophic chain of events that results in a leak of live virus into the environment.

    See UK Merial – Pirbright Lab FMD leak circa 2007. Example:

  3. Hank Parker says:

    Thank you for your comments and for bringing up NBAF–I should have talked about that new facility under development. I share some of your concerns about the siting in the heart of commercial livestock production. I’m assured by experts in the biosafety/biocontainment field that the NBAF design includes multiple levels of containment that will make the facility safer than Plum island (the latter has to be concerned about resident deer swimming to the mainland). Like you, I pray that we don’t have a virus leak.

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