Best Practices for Explosives Terrorism

Note: Best Practices are basically related to avoidance of these explosive devices and then necessary treatment of those who have been injured. Treat all threats as potential acts of terrorism, vacate areas immediately, and contact the proper authorities. First responders must be aware of secondary explosives that have been placed in areas which can harm them as they respond to the terrorist act.

Food Terrorism

The World Health Organization recognizes a very serious concern about the possibility of biological, chemical or physical agents, or radioactive materials being deliberately used to contaminate food to injure or kill civilian populations. This act of terrorism would put an overwhelming burden on existing public health systems, and cause disruption to the social, economic, and political stability of the areas affected. It would cause food prices to rise, reduce availability to necessary foodstuffs, and potentially threaten food security leading to unrest and hunger in the population.

Whereas previously much of the food consumed by a community was grown in the immediate vicinity or at least within the country for specialized types of food, today countries import vast amounts of food from other areas along with potential contamination from those areas as well as potential contaminants added by terrorists. The easy accessibility to various foods and the previous experience of groups who have wanted to contaminate the food supply have been recorded. As an example, in 1984, members of a religious cult contaminated salad bars in the United States causing 751 cases of salmonellosis. This was a trial run for future contamination of the food supply. Other outbreaks of foodborne disease have occurred and although not caused by terrorists, could easily have been. In 1985, 170,000 people were contaminated with Salmonella from a US pasteurized milk plant. There was an outbreak of hepatitis associated with clams in China where almost 300,000 people were affected. In 1996, about 8000 children in Japan were infected by radish sprouts contaminated with Escherichia coli. In Germany, E. coli caused sickness in over 4300 people and killed 50 in 2011. Besides potential health effects causing illness or death, there are many other consequences of food being contaminated by terrorists. They may be economic consequences where the disruption will cause huge financial problems as happened in Israel when citrus fruit exported to European countries was purposely contaminated with mercury leading to trade disruption, and in Chile where grapes were contaminated purposely with cyanide, etc.; an impact on public health services such when nerve gas released in the Tokyo subway system caused the death of 12 people and harmed 5000 others who needed to be treated, thus completely inundating emergency services; and the imposition of fear and anxiety on the population, leading to a sense of paralysis within the community.

Although microorganisms have and will continue to cause serious outbreaks of foodborne disease, chemicals may be easier to obtain and can cause equal or even greater problems. Contamination with radio nucleotides is also a serious consideration. In any case, time of exposure and concentration of the contaminant at the point of insertion of the substance into the food supply is a great concern and, in the case of microorganisms, also the temperature of the food.

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