Intentional or Not, That Is The Question.
Looking at The Bigger Picture
Food Safety and defense involves identifying threats, securing critical control points, determining remedial actions and training. Being aware will help determine what could go wrong. Learning from the past is very important here because food and water contamination is not new. This article is focused on the past. An understanding will develop regarding agents, people, motives and and potential scale of impact.
¨During the Renaissance, people again considered using chemical warfare. One of the earliest such references is from Leonardo da Vinci, who proposed a powder of sulfide of arsenic and verdigris in the 15th century:
“throw poison in the form of powder upon galleys. Chalk, fine sulfide of arsenic, and powdered verdigris may be thrown among enemy ships by means of small mangonels, and all those who, as they breathe, inhale the powder into their lungs will become asphyxiated.”
479 BC found Siddhartha Gautama (known as The Buddha), by some accounts, may have died of mushroom poisoning. Yes, this is not well documented and is only one person. However, it does being to show the evil that rests in the hart of some men.
Approximately 1180 AD, Ghingas Kahn was waging war, testing and proving his military proues. One tactic he (and others) used was placing live and dead animals in wells and would burn fields. When possible scorpion or snake venom as well as some poisonous plants were used on enemies.
Fearless Roman Emperor Claudius is said to have been murdered by being fed the death cap mushroom. However this story first appeared some two centuries after the events, and it is even debatable whether Claudius was murdered at all. Pope Clement VII is also rumored to have been murdered this way. However it is similarly debated whether he died from any kind of poisoning at all.
Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” (ca 500 BC) advises the use of fire weapons, toxins and plants. In the 4th century BC, writings of the Mohist sect in China describe the use of bellows to pump smoke from burning balls of mustard and other toxic vegetables into tunnels being dug by a besieging army. Even older Chinese writings dating back to about 1000 BC contain hundreds of recipes for the production of poisonous or irritating smokes for use in war along with numerous accounts of their use. From these accounts we know of the arsenic-containing “soul-hunting fog”, and the use of finely divided lime dispersed into the air to suppress a peasant revolt in AD 178.
¨The earliest recorded use of gas warfare in the West dates back to the 5th century BC, during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Spartan forces besieging an Athenian city placed a lighted mixture of wood, pitch, and sulfur under the walls hoping that the noxious smoke would incapacitate the Athenians, so that they would not be able to resist the assault that followed. Sparta was not alone in its use of unconventional tactics in ancient Greece: Solon of Athens is said to have used hellebore roots to poison the water in an aqueduct leading from the Pleistrus River around 590 BC during the siege of Kirrha.
¨Historian and philosopher David Hume, in his history of England, recounts how in the reign of Henry III (r.1216 – 1272) the English Navy destroyed an invading French fleet, by blinding the enemy fleet with “quicklime,” the old name for calcium oxide. D’Albiney employed a stratagem against them, which is said to have contributed to the victory: Having gained the wind of the French, he came down upon them with violence; and throwing in their faces a great quantity of quicklime, which he purposely carried on board, he so blinded them, that they were disabled from defending themselves.
WWII saw arsenic painted on bread of Nazi prisoners by Jewish non-state assassins, killing over 200 people. Asia saw powdered milk contaminated with arsenic killing over 130 in Japan. Estemates have between 300 and 700 thousand Jewish and prisoner of war individuals had food poisoned as a means of death. This was conducted on small groups as small as three and as large as 2,000 people.
There are a number of relatively 20th century intentional food contamination events. These events may impact an individual or large population. These events are lights providing the agents used, positions people had and motivations. Some events may have multiple individuals or were not assigned to one individual being responsible, these events are listed as “Unknown”.
Confirmed Use of an Agent
- 2008 Food poisoning and contamination with melamine — over 300,000 in China and over 100,00 outside China – unknown
- 2004 Food contaminated with Malathion — over 1,700 injured or dead — employee
- 2002 Milk contaminated with Salmonella–estimated over 200,000 illnesses in Chicago – unknown
- 2004 Ice cream and Salmonella–estimated 250,000 illnesses nationwide – unknown
- 1997 The spread of hemorrhagic virus among the wild rabbit population in New Zealand – New Zealand farmers
- 1996 Food poisoning using shigella in a Texas hospital Hospital – lab worker
- 1995 Food poisoning of estranged husband using ricin Kansas – physician
- 1984 Food poisonings using salmonella in salad bars in Oregon restaurants – Rajneeshee Cult
- 1970 Food poisoning of Canadian college students – Estranged roommate
- 1964 Food poisoning in Japan using salmonella and dysentery agents – Japanese physician
- 1952 Use of African bush milk to kill livestock – Mau Mau (an insurgent organization in Kenya)
- 1939 Food poisoning in Japan using salmonella – Japanese physician
- 1936 Food poisoning in Japan using salmonella – Japanese physician
- 1916 Food poisoning in New York using various biological agents – Dentist
- 1913 Food poisoning in Germany using cholera and typhus – Former chemist employee
- 1912 Food poisoning in France using salmonella and toxic mushrooms – French druggist
Threatened Use of an Agent
- 1984 Attempt to kill a racehorse with pathogens (insurance scam); confirmed possession — Two Canadians
- 1984 Threat to introduce FMD into wild pigs, which would then infect livestock; no confirmed possession — Australian prison inmate
The list of events does not include numerous events perpetrated by ISIS against women and communities.
That agents are used to poison individuals and large groups should be concluded. The agents involve natural (salmonella) and manufactured (melamine) agents.
The United States list the following as top agents: Anthrax, Botulinum toxin, Plague and Ricin.
The United States CDC list agents in two catagories (A & B). The agents include: Anthrax, Botulinum, Plague, Smallpox, Brucellosis, Epsilon Toxin, Food Safety Threats (Salmonella spp., Campylobacter jejuni, Yersinia enterocolitica, Shigella spp., Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Francisella tularensis, Glanders, Ricin Toxin, Staphylococcol enterotoxin, Typhus fever, ses,
Viruses include Noroviruses, Hepatitis A virus, Hepatitis E virus and Rota virus.
Natural Toxins include but are not limited to Ciguatoxin, Shellfish toxins (PSP, DSP, NSP, ASP, AZP), Scombrotoxin, Tetrodotoxin, Mushroom toxins, Aflatoxins, Gempylotoxin, and Pyrrolizidine alkal.
Hopefully it is not hard to be convinced there are pleanty of agents which may be used. Note, many of the agents listed are difficult to create or culture. The list does not include physical items such as glass, plastic scraps, metal, wood, fibers and ceramics.
Those perpetrating intentional events range from physicians, druggists, room mates, cult/extremist members, lab workers, employees managers and farmers. There is no real clear indicator a specific social, economic, political, religious or other status will indicate a person will poison others. It is clear that being disgruntle or extremely motivated may facilitate poisoning.
Harvey J. McGeorge does an excellent job analysis 233 past incidents of chemical and biological events. The analysis show food and water consumables make up over 80% of chemical events and 4% of biological events.
These results are parallel with those reported in United States Army Preventive Medicine in WWII, Volume IV, Communicable Diseases, Transmitted Chiefly Through Respiratory and Alimentary Tracts .
We should be aware that incontinent contamination may occur, is real and may be by almost anyone. This is why Minnesota’s GNP Company, based in Cold Spring, late Saturday recalled approximately 55,608 pounds of chicken products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
GNP discovered sand and black soil (having no reason to be in the product) turning up in some of the products, and reported it to FSIS. No one has reported any adverse reactions to the contaminated products. GNP Company and local law enforcement are investigating how the sand and soil got into the chicken products.
GNP’s response is proactive and becoming more common. Their education, planning and reponse is a model for the new Food Safety Modernization Act.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law January 4, 2011. It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it.
The next publication will examine some more recent invents, intentions and
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United State Government Accounting Office http://www.gao.gov/products/RCED-00-3
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“Bad Bug Book”, the United States Food and Drug Administraiton https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/UCM297627.pdf
“United States Army Preventive Medicine in WWII, Volume IV, Communicable Diseases, Transmitted Chiefly Through Respiratory and Alimentary Tracts” , United States Army http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwii/PM4/DEFAULT.htm
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