UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Homeland Security

03 February 2003

WHO Warns of Food Supply Vulnerability to Terrorism

(Health organization urges nations to adopt safeguards) (700)
The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging nations to develop
better safeguards to ensure that food supplies don't become the next
instrument of a terrorist attack. In a January 30 press release, WHO
announced that it has published new guidance for governments to use to
establish prevention, surveillance and response capacities.
Foodborne disease is a frequent cause of illness, usually
unintentional, but still affecting thousands of people in some cases.
The WHO report says the risk of deliberate tainting of the food supply
is a prospect that governments must consider.
The WHO findings, coming from a panel of experts representing national
health agencies in a number of countries, emphasize strengthening
disease control systems, alert and response systems, and emergency
Following is the text of the WHO press release:
(begin text)
WHO publishes guidance to minimize terrorist threats to food
30 January 2003 -- The World Health Organization (WHO) today published
guidance intended to help national governments establish mechanisms,
which will minimize potential terrorists acts against food supplies.
The document, entitled "Terrorist Threats to Food: Guidance for
Establishing and Strengthening Prevention and Response Systems", is
available at the following website: www.who.int/fsf.
According to WHO, foodborne agents may be responsible for up to 1.5
million deaths from diarrhea-related conditions alone worldwide each
year. In industrialized countries, such as the USA, one person in
three may suffer from a foodborne disease annually. Major outbreaks of
foodborne disease and related food safety emergencies are all too
frequently reported, sometimes affecting hundreds of thousands of
people and having enormous impact on trade. While only a few cases of
intentional contamination of food have been proven, the risk of
possible terrorist threats to food should be given serious
consideration by public health authorities and the food industry.
The document examines means of establishing basic prevention,
surveillance and response capacities. Because both unintentionally and
deliberately caused outbreaks of foodborne disease may be managed by
many of the same mechanisms, the WHO recommendations concentrate on
working with national governments on integrating terrorism prevention
and response measures into existing national food safety and disease
surveillance programs.
Preventive measures by governments and the food industry are
discussed. Industry involvement is encouraged from the outset, as the
food industry possesses the primary means and greatest ability to
minimize food-related risks. Existing food safety management programs
can be enhanced, WHO says, while putting in place appropriate security
measures to protect food production and distribution systems. The
document provides suggestions for specific measures for consideration
by industry.
The document provides guidance on strengthening existing communicable
disease control systems to ensure that surveillance systems are
sufficiently sensitive to meet the threat of any food safety
emergency. It emphasizes that the establishment and strengthening of
such systems will have a double benefit - not only will they help
address the threat of food terrorism and other emergencies, they will
also increase governments' capacity to reduce the increasing burden of
foodborne illness.
The guidance document emphasizes the need to strengthen existing
emergency alert and response systems by improving links with all
relevant agencies and with the food industry. Many developed and most
developing countries are not yet adequately prepared to deal with a
large-scale food safety emergency. All countries should undertake
preparedness and response planning to be able to cope with food safety
emergencies regardless of their cause. In this regard, the services of
various technical programs of WHO as well as other organizations that
may be of assistance to countries in addressing this newly emerging
public health concern are also described in the document.
Experts from national agencies in Australia, Germany, Ireland, Japan,
Russia, Spain, United Kingdom, and United States of America, and from
organizations including the European Commission, the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Industry
Council for Development contributed to the development of the
document. The document was prepared in collaboration with the WHO
European Center for Environment and Health.
The document is also available in written form by contacting the WHO
Food Safety Department, c/o WHO, CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland, fax (+41
22) 791 4807, e-mail foodsafety@who.int.
(end text)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list