Terrorism That Could Hit Our Bread Basket

by Diane Dimond on November 16, 2009

Contaminated Feed, Contaminated Beef

Contaminated Feed, Contaminated Beef

My husband says I worry too much. Naturally, I don’t agree. But there I was at the grocery store the other day and my mind began to work overtime.

Given the nature of the work I do – writing about crime and justice – I admit my brain doesn’t necessarily think like other people’s brains.

As I went about spending $271.52, which took a while, I noticed an unattended child in the cookie aisle. Fast as a cat he opened a bag, snatched a cookie and shoved it in his mouth. He then expertly sealed up the package again lickedy-split. No one was the wiser except for me.

In retrospect I think I should have stopped the boy, demanded he take me to his mother, been part of the ‘village’ that it takes to raise our children correctly. Honestly, there just wasn’t time, he was that fast.

The kid’s actions left me with the feeling that terrorist attacks on our food supply could also happen that fast.

At the milk display I thought about how easy it would be for someone who hates America to take a syringe full of poison and inject a few lethal drops into the top fold of several cartons. Who would ever notice a tiny needle hole?

Vulnerable to Agro-Terrorism

Our Food Supply - Vulnerable to Agro-Terrorism

Fresh, unwrapped merchandise like fruits, vegetables and baked goods could easily be sprinkled with something awful – I don’t want to elaborate lest I give criminals any ideas.

Being the daughter of a butcher I know that all it would take for someone bent on doing damage is to get a job in a store’s back room where food is prepared. A little of this in the hamburger as it’s being ground, a handful of that in a vat of potato salad and multiple mysterious illnesses and deaths could result.

Can you imagine the panic a pattern of poisonings would cause if they all happened on the same day in, say, New York, Miami, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle and Los Angeles? Just half a dozen terrorist sickos acting in concert would cause the media to make it a 24/7 story (“Is your food safe from the Food Terrorists? Tonight at 11!”) and all that coverage would most certainly embolden other extremists. It could be the beginning of an awful cycle.

Our government leaders don’t talk publicly about things like this. That’s because they don’t want to cause undue alarm. But make no mistake – terrorism of our food supply continues to be a big concern among Homeland Security types.

Among The Watchdogs

Among The Watchdogs

There’s a whole bunch of government agencies tasked with monitoring our nation’s food chain beginning in the fields where our produce and cattle come from. Since the September 11th attacks there have been several presidential directives to refine the roles each of these agencies play in protecting us. But the introduction of deadly diseases to our far-flung, unpatrolled produce fields and livestock herds still seems like easy pickings.

The Congressional Research Service reported a while back that, “some types of agro-terrorism could be relatively easily achieved and have significant economic impacts.” The report used scary buzz words and phrases like: bio-terrorism, major economic disruptions, a national security threat and a word I’d never heard, “Zoonotic.”

The CRS report warned, humans could be at risk in terms of food safety and public health if terrorists chose to taint our food supply with a Zoonotic, a “disease that is transmissible to humans.” And apparently because our country has done so well in keeping out foreign animal and plant diseases, which flourish in many other countries, our veterinarians often lack experience in how to spot or treat animals with these illnesses.

FBI Agro-Terrorism Exercise

FBI Agro-Terrorism Exercise

Swell. Our success in the past comes back to haunt us!

It’s true that not since 9-11 has there been a successful terrorist attack on American soil. But our power grids in major cities have been compromised, so have some major government computer systems and enemies from foreign lands can still cross our borders to pursue all manner of diabolical plans against us. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out there’s no closer-to-home place to strike a population than its food supply.

Let me ask you – when was the last time you saw a security guard in your grocery store? Are you confident that your market thoroughly screens the backgrounds of its employees? Yeah, not so much, right?

I can’t help it. As I stroll through the aisles of my local supermarket I see lots of opportunities for terrible people to do terrible things. I’ve vowed to check the packaging on everything I buy a lot more closely from now on.

Maybe my husband is right and I worry too much. Or maybe the possibility of agro-terrorism is something we should all worry more about.


Diane November 16, 2009 at 11:46 am

ABQ Journal Reader William D. writes:

“I read your column today about the danger of food terrorism. I might add that one also has to watch out for domestic as well as overseas terrorists. The 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building by Timothy MacVeigh should serve as a warning. At first, the main-stream media was quick to jump to the conclusion that a Mid-East conspiracy caused that bombing when it turned out to be a Mid-Western group of white Americans instead of Arabs or Muslims who committed this dastardly act. In order to fight domestic terrorism, it is imperative to earn the trust of law-abiding Muslims and Arabs so that if they did have any useful information, they would not be afraid to share it with the U.S. authorities for fear of being falsely accused or convicted of terrorism. In closing, the U.S. throughout its history has committed terrorism against others like germ warfare against Amerindians, dropping defoliants and conventional bombs on the two Koreas, Vietnam, or even doing experiments on the poor and the handicapped in this country without their knowledge or informed consent. Something to keep in mind as we try to protect ourselves against food terrorism.”

Diane November 16, 2009 at 11:47 am

Reader J. G. writes:

“So, did you pull the cookies off the shelf and give them to a store clerk and tell them what you saw? Or are you the type who just figures that someone else will take care of it?

I doubt that the package was opened, cookie removed, and sealed back up faster than you could have said “hey, you can’t do that”.

Your husband is right, but you can worry all you want, you don’t need to spread your fear out on the rest of us, we have enough to deal with in our own heads. And, yes, you probably gave someone an idea to do something bad. Remember Tylenol?

Diane November 16, 2009 at 11:51 am

JG – Yes, I took the bag of cookies to the front desk and told them they’d been tampered with.
As for your assertion about me giving terrorists ideas? Are you kidding me? I’m quite sure there are terrorists sitting around all over the world diabolically discussing LOTS of ways to harm us. Things neither you or I can even imagine.
BTW – the Tylenol case was a DOMESTIC tampering case.

bernie Kriegel November 16, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Your Husband isn’t right… It’s not that it can’t be done it’s when will it be done.
We are extremely complacent on what is happening here on US soil. We expect that the powers that be will take care of us. Not!
Not wanting to take the time I too am not giving reasons why I fee this way and, I will probably regret it later.
My Wife and I are moving to Israel at the end of next month and we will be on the frontlines. If you are not connected please go to honestyrecording.org, as to one source of information, I have others that I will send you at another time.
Thanks for doing what you do.
Your old sound mixer,

Bernie Kriegel
TOV Productions

Diane November 17, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Facebook Friend Tony A. writes:

“There are sickos out there,whether foreign or home-grown,that are more than capable to pull this off and the consequences could be as bad or worse than 9/11…scary stuff.”

Diane November 17, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Facebook Friend LaDonna B. writes:

“ya tony, i agree completely…”

Diane November 17, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Facebook Friend Gina N.C. writes:

“I also agree..its scary..and we have to be more alert to prevent it from happening….and not wait til it happens to do something about it!”

Diane November 17, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Facebook Friend Phil H. writes:

“I’m more concerned with the lack of long term testing on canned foods that are sitting on store shelves across America. None of the short term tests came back favorable yet here we are.
These veg have been genetically altered to feed the masses, at what price? If you grow your own food then you know the new seeds do not re sow. That’s scary. That’s true terror.”

Diane November 17, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Facebook Friend Ralph L. writes:

“The USDA, for as long as I can remember, has always been under staffed for inspections. Who can we trust to ensure the safety of our food sources? The producer. It’s a real concern and should not be taken lightly.”

Diane November 17, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Facebook Friend Leslie S. writes:

“Diane, I know for a fact I have been jabbering all about that and everyone tells me I’m crazy. But I believe that Swine Flu is a terrorist silent cell, and that Fort Hood guy was a terrorist in a silent cell that was told to shoot… Soon they will have suicide bombers blowing themselves up but instead of metal killing people, it was be diseases that infect us … You are way on target with this. Lots of silent cells out there, and they will be coming from all over the world.

Diane November 17, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Facebook Friend Chip J. writes:

“Don’t worry Diane, we are going to keep the nice detainees safe in Illinois, far away from any livestock or agriculture……..Oh, wait a minute….”

Jon November 18, 2009 at 8:13 am

I just wish I could get out of the grocery store for only $271.52!

jeff hughes November 18, 2009 at 12:03 pm

I have also thought about what Diane wrote about. Sometimes, i think the good old days were really that, even though the work was hard, the pay was low and the amenities were few. It’s easy to despair about all those losers, but we do need to be vigilant!! Just keep your eyes and ears open, and if you see something wrong, turn it in!! I know, I know….easier said than done.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: