The Grocery War Against Terrorism

Sep 24, 2002

The events of September 11, 2001 reinforced the need for securing the safety of food throughout the supply chain, according to an article in yesterday’s St. Louis Dispatch.

Dianna Pasley, director of food safety, Schnuck’s was originally hired by the grocery chain to “be the company’s go-to person on food safety — someone who could educate consumers and employees about proper food storage and preparation.” After 9/11, Ms. Pasley has been given the added responsibility of trying to prevent terrorists from poisoning food sold through the supermarket chain’s stores.

In January, President Bush signed an appropriations bill that included $328 million in funding for the USDA to boost security. The USDA also created a Homeland Security Council that includes a Biosecurity Action Team to provide counter-terrorism measures and emergency-preparedness programs.

The increase of heat and eat foods prepared in supermarkets is thought to make the channel vulnerable to potential attacks. To date, the only confirmed case of food terrorism took place in 1984. Then, a cult in Oregon sprayed salmonella on a salad bar in an attempt to keep people from voting in an election.

Concern over the spread of anthrax and other agents has resulted in packaging changes as well as increased monitoring of fresh and prepared food areas within stores. Associates are now trained to watch for suspicious behavior from customers and co-workers alike.

Moderator’s Comment: Have retailers made food security
their top priority as has been suggested? Do they have the resources (human,
financial, technical) to secure the food they sell?

Retail was seen as a “soft target” for terrorists well
before 9/11, but there is no doubt that the events of that day have reinforced
the need for vigilance on the part of retailers. Ken Jacobsmeyer, director of
loss prevention, Schnuck’s sums it up well. “Food safety has always been a priority
issue. But since 9-11, most of the focus has been on food security . . . Prior
to Sept. 11, you just didn’t hear that terminology.” [George
Anderson – Moderator

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