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Health Food?

June 11, 2007

Food SafetyI’ve heard many folks complain about the lack of attention given to food issues by homeland security types. Normally, I would chalk this up to funding envy. Bioterror programs routinely get hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in order to prepare for the very unlikely possibility of a local bioterror attack. Food security folks (rightly) note that an attack on our food supply or through our food chain would affect many, many more people and could have ramifications well beyond those experienced from a cutaneous reaction to anthrax (read: the collapse of our entire food industry). But, it’s still always looked like me-too-ishness.

Lately, though, the news has given me pause. After reading of yet another expanding food recall, one has to wonder if the food security folks don’t have a very good point.

The buzzword in public health preparedness used to be all hazards preparation. We’ve already talked about the diminishing viability of that goal, but I still believe that it remains laudable and is something that I shoot for in my work. The idea of all hazards preparedness gives rise to the basis for public health preparedness. By constantly monitoring the health of the public, we can pick out anomalies and respond more quickly and effectively to the incident, be it natural, accidental or malicious. Furthermore, by using those techniques, technology and SOP’s every day, our disease investigators will be able to seamlessly function during an incident, emergency or disaster. This is obviously opposed to the one-time delving into our preparedness caches and attempting to institute complicated ICS leadership roles while facing a mass casualty incident.

Wouldn’t food safety be the perfect example of all hazards preparedness? By constantly monitoring the safety of our food supply (against such things as E. coli), we could plausibly be protected against all manner of food-borne attacks. Yet the hits just keep on coming.

As the above article says:

It’s getting harder and harder to know what’s safe to eat.

I, for one, feel that it’s about time we start focusing on true all hazards preparedness, and stop focusing on this pseudo-military homeland security masquerading as all hazards preparedness.

Further resources can be found here.

Update: CIDRAP press release on the recall here.

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