Direct economic consequences, potential long-term loss of consumer confidence, and the disruption to trade in the APEC region would be catastrophic if a serious food-supply incident, or even a hoax or ineffective attack, were to be perpetrated, according to paper which was recently declassified by the APEC Counter-Terrorism Task Force.
Preventing such attacks and mitigating the threat to global food supply were at the center of the discussion of APEC technical experts and policy makers and representatives from the private sector meeting in Bangkok. At the meeting they worked to identify areas where they can collaborate to combat a deliberate contamination to the global food supply, both at the production and processing stages.
The workshop was co-hosted by the governments of Thailand and the United States of America. Australia and Chile are co-sponsors of the food defense work.
Natalia Comella, U.S. State Department Policy Advisor for Bioterrorism, Biodefense, and Health Security, introduced the food defense initiative at APEC. "The threat of deliberate contamination of the food supply for the express purpose of doing harm to a civilian population or economy is real. By identifying areas in food production and distribution most vulnerable to deliberate contamination and developing strategies to mitigate the threat, we better protect ourselves from the possibility of a terrorist attack on the food supply, reducing the likelihood of an attack on the food supply," said Ms. Comella.
"The workshop promised to benefit multiple sectors across APEC by bringing together technical experts and policy makers from agriculture, health, foreign affairs, security, and trade, as well as the private sector."
C.P. Foods, Kraft Foods, and Fonterra Co-op Group Limited also shared their perspectives on food defense, along with technical experts from APEC Member Economies.
"Given that the private sector oversees a majority, if not all, of the relevant infrastructure, it is important that food defense work and related activities are well coordinated among key stakeholders," said U.S. Embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission Alex Arvizu.
"In today's marketplace, food is mass produced and rapidly distributed throughout the world. If contaminated, it could cause morbidity and/or mortality on a global scale.
Officials carried out simulations of threats in APEC Member Economies to illustrate the importance of using vulnerability assessments.
"Participants used vulnerability assessment tools on a food product as it goes from 'farm to table' as a means of illustrating how these tools can be used most effectively in identifying vulnerabilities or 'critical nodes' in the continuum".
"The workshop provided each APEC economy with tools to analyze and apply risk assessment methodologies to combat the terrorist threat to their food-supply. Since the characteristics of certain foods make more attractive targets, participants looked at how to assess the vulnerability in two food products -- produce and meat.
The "Mitigating the Terrorist Threat to the APEC Food Supply" Workshop was held from November 1 - 3, 2006 in Bangkok, Thailand.