About those 78 alleged terrorism attacks: Earlier this week, the White House released a list of 78 terrorist attacks in response to an assertion earlier in the day by President Donald Trump that the “very dishonest press” often doesn’t report on them. Of those attacks, only 10 were on U.S. soil, and six were heavily reported. Of the other four, all received local coverage but weren’t fodder for days-long national media frenzies because no one died (nor was the terrorism connection necessarily always clear). Given what we know about ISIS’ attempts to inspire lone-wolf terrorists worldwide, however, there may indeed be an important pattern emerging—although Trump’s emphasis seemed to be more focused on criticism of the press, not the actual attack pattern. This pattern is being carefully watched and considered as real by the Intelligence Community and law enforcement. During an appearance at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, President Trump sought to make the case for the need to be vigilant at a time when legal action looms over his now-likely temporarily frozen ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Trump cited a series of attacks in the United States and in Europe as he spoke of the dangers of “radical Islamic terrorists.” READ MORE
Evanger’s is no stranger to FDA warnings: Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food of Wheeling, Ill., is no stranger to FDA warnings, says Food Safety News. At least five dogs were sickened and one died after eating “Hunk of Beef” canned dog food that contained a barbiturate, Pentobarbital. As a result, Evanger’s is recalling five lots of 12-ounce cans of “Hunk of Beef” dog food. READ MORE
Chicken recall results in felony charges: A recent case of employee sabotage cost a Minnesota company $202,746 because the contamination resulted in the recall of some 55,608 pounds of chicken that had been distributed primarily to foodservice and institutional outlets. Faye Slye, 36, is facing felony charges for allegedly using dirt to contaminate chicken while working at a Gold’n Plump processing plant in Cold Spring, Minn. The incident occurred in June, shortly before the plant’s owner recalled some 27 tons of chicken for an “isolated product tampering incident” at the plant. Court documents allege Slye smuggled in sand and dirt from the parking lot. Another worker alerted authorities to dirty chicken in June. A second incident happened the next day. READ MORE
Organic baby food recalled for botulism risk: Loblaw Companies Ltd. is recalling one flavor of PC Organics baby food from retailers nationwide in Canada after a consumer complaint triggered an inspection that revealed the product could contain the toxin that causes botulism poisoning. READ MORE
Barbiturate in dog food sickens five pets: At least five dogs have been sickened and one has died after eating “Hunk of Beef” canned dog food manufactured by Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food of Wheeling, Ill. A barbiturate, Pentobarbital, has been confirmed in one lot of the food, and the company is concerned people may still have unused cans in their homes. As a result, Evanger’s is recalling five lots of 12-ounce cans of “Hunk of Beef” dog food that have expiration dates of June 2020, according to the recall notice posted on the Food and Drug Administration website. READ MORE
So-called ‘lone wolves’ may receive extensive help: In a detailed and extensively researched report, the New York Times reports that terrorism planners in Syria and Iraq are using messaging apps to enable attacks across the world, right down to picking the targets and finding the guns. As officials around the world have faced a confusing barrage of attacks dedicated to the Islamic State, we are seeing the emergence of what counterterrorism experts are calling “enabled” or remote-controlled attacks: violence conceived and guided by operatives in areas controlled by the Islamic State whose only connection to the would-be attacker is the internet. In the most basic enabled attacks, Islamic State handlers act as confidants and coaches, coaxing recruits to embrace violence. In a complex plot described in the article, the terrorist group has reached deep into a country with strict gun laws to arrange for pistols and ammunition to be left in a bag swinging from the branches of a tree. READ MORE
Bombing in Pasadena: Pasadena Now reports that a man threw an explosive pyrotechnic device into the crowded Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Old Pasadena last week, sending panicky diners streaming out the exits but causing no injuries, police and witnesses said. Although the man’s motivation is still unclear, the incident illustrates the ease of a potential terror attack in a U.S. dining establishment or hotel. Police said the suspect, described as Hispanic or Middle Eastern in appearance, was dressed in black, wore a black beanie and had a “robust beard.” READ MORE
Autonomous hacking bots: The maxim of cybersecurity professionals has long been that adversaries have the advantage—the advantage of time, numerous lines of attack, and the need to find only one lapse in security. The Cipher Brief asks how the dawn of autonomous hacking will affect both cyber defenses and offensively orientated operations. Will artificially intelligent bots capable of learning on the fly better harden networks or will they act as devastating tools in the arsenal of nefarious actors? READ MORE
A black market for lettuce: Supermarkets in Great Britain are rationing salad and vegetables, which has led to the emergence of a new “black market” as experts urge shoppers to buy more seasonal British produce. The rationing and black market came about after the UK’s supply of salad and vegetables was decimated by storms across the Mediterranean, leaving supermarket shelves empty as they struggled to meet demand. READ MORE
Super Bowl safety: Have plans for the big game? We all know this day is more than just football. It’s also the second largest day for food consumption in the U.S., next to Thanksgiving Day. Chips, wings, guacamole, chili—sounds like a good time right? It should be—so follow the USDA’s food safety advice so this snack-filled day doesn’t end in food poisoning. READ MORE
The danger of third party contamination: FDA inspectors have confirmed that Listeria found in one brand of Blue Bell ice cream originated with a third-party supplier, illustrating how contamination of one ingredient in a product can lead to more contamination “downstream.” The finding prompted a recall of the company’s products in October 2016, the second in a short period of time. Blue Bell credited its testing program with identifying the presence of Listeria in chocolate-chip cookie dough manufactured by Garner, Iowa-based Aspen Hills Inc., which ceased production at the end of December. The Houston Chronicle reports that the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter last month to Aspen Hills, detailing the company’s failures in preventing contamination. Hills’ owners said they have decided to exit their business. At the time of the second recall, Blue Bell was regaining some of its market share following a debilitating recall the year before resulting from 10 Listeria cases in four states, including three deaths in Kansas. READ MORE
The history of humans and germs: Humans get along pretty well with most microbes. Which is lucky, because there are a lot more of them in the world than there are of us. We couldn’t even live without many of them. But a few hundred have evolved, and are still evolving, to exploit our bodies in ways that can make us really sick. These are the microbes we call germs. Think plague, flu, HIV, SARS, Ebola, Zika, measles. WATCH VIDEO
The perils of unripe lychee fruit: Nearly 400 cases of an unexplained, acute illness in 2014 have been investigated in India. Between May 26 and July 24 of that year, 390 patients were admitted to the two referral hospitals in Muzaffarpur, located in the state of Bihar, with 122 of them (31 percent) dying from acute toxic encephalopathy. A study by researchers from India and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S., publishing in the medical journal Lancet, have identified an association with the ingestion of lychee fruit.
This case is clearly not related to intentional food adulteration, but instead appears to be the result of a number of precipitating elements acting in tandem. Although not directly related to food defense, the identification and detection of toxic materials that could potentially enter the food supply is always of concern.
The study notes, “In India, seasonal outbreaks of an acute unexplained neurological illness have been reported since 1995 from Muzaffarpur, Bihar, the largest litchi (lychee) fruit cultivation region in the country. These recurring outbreaks begin in mid-May and peak in June, coinciding with the month-long litchi harvesting season. Children from poor socioeconomic backgrounds in rural Muzaffarpur comprise most of those affected. Illness is characterised by acute seizures and changed mental status, frequently with onset in the early morning,2 and is associated with high mortality.”
Sampling of unripe lychee fruit from the region showed the fruit contained twice as much of two apparently naturally occurring chemicals, hypoglycin A and MCPG, as compared to ripe fruits. These chemicals also were detected in the urine of patients suffering from the encephalopathy, suggesting the unripe fruit caused the illness. The impacted region is very poor, suggesting the affected patients—many of them children—ate unripe fruit because of poor nutrition and hunger.
The report also recommends minimizing lychee consumption among young children in the affected area, ensuring children receive an evening meal during the outbreak period, and rapidly assessing and correcting hypoglycemia in any child suspected of having the illness. Evaluation of other potential factors, including missed evening meal, poor nutritional status, and as yet unidentified genetic differences, may provide further insights into additional risk factors for this outbreak illness.” READ MORE
Meet Osama bin Laden: For a decade, food defense expert Rod Wheeler signed into visitor log books at food processing plants with a fake name: Osama Bin Laden. The notorious terrorist’s signature never aroused any interest, other than from one receptionist who dutifully asked what to write on his name tag. “Just call me ‘Bin’ for short,” Wheeler replied. The incident highlights an unsettling fact about safety procedures at many food processing facilities — the sense of security is often illusory, Wheeler said during the Northwest Food Processors Association’s recent conference in Portland, Ore. READ MORE
Toxic chemicals in fast-food wrappers: Invisible toxic chemicals are showing up in fast-food wrappers, according to a scientific study done with help from the Environmental Protection Agency. The study found the perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in grease-resistant wrappers -– including pizza box liners, sandwich and pastry packaging — from chains including Starbucks, Jimmy Johns, Taco Time, Chipotle and Quiznos. The chemicals can leach into food, potentially reaching consumers, the study authors said, urging companies to find safe alternative packaging. EPA scientists have found PFCs contaminating water nationwide and have determined that PFCs now are widely dispersed in humans and wildlife. READ MORE
The threat of agroterrorism: Warnings about the threat of agroterrorism are finally reaching the general public, judging by this recent article in the New York Post by novelist (and bioterrorism expert) Hank Parker, who’s written a novel on the subject. As Parker points out, agroterrorism has a long and disturbing history, dating back at least to ancient Greece and Rome. So far, there have been very few documented large-scale incidents in the United States, but organizations like al Qaeda have considered striking US agriculture — an attack that would be distressingly easy to conduct and is imagined in his new bioterror novel, “Containment.” “Our farms are mostly unprotected soft targets with large numbers of undocumented or transient workers presenting a challenge for close monitoring, and few vaccines are available for farm animals,” he says. READ MORE
The business of bacon: Bacon prices are rising as supplies shrink. The USDA says the supply of frozen pork belly, from which bacon is cut, is at its lowest level since Dec. 1957, during President Eisenhower’s term of office. That’s where the futures market comes in, explains a Forbes columnist. READ MORE
A recent incident in the United Kingdom illustrates how expensive even a single incident of product tampering can be to a company. A single, foil-wrapped, milk-chocolate bunny was found to contain a button battery, which could be a choking hazard or cause burns if swallowed. Finding the one button battery inside the hollow bunny resulted in the recall of the product nationwide by a British grocery store chain, Co-op. The chain had to recall 165,000 hollow milk-chocolate Santas last year for the same reason. The bunnies were made by a German company, Wawi, which has production facilities on four continents. READ MORE
It sounded like some good news at last: Supposedly, a study by Kyorin University professor Yoshihiko Koga showed that eating ice cream right after waking up could result in improved alertness and mental performance. An article about the study that was published on Japan’s Excite News website claimed the study compared brain activity in people who had been given ice cream immediately after waking up with those who had not eaten ice cream. The study is said to have found that people who had consumed ice cream for breakfast showed better reaction times and were able to process information better than those who did not have the ice cream.
This news was repeated over and over again online, including in publications such as Newsweek and the International Business Times. The story originally took off after showing up in UK’s Telegraph newspaper, although the original article pointed out that eating ice cream for breakfast goes against almost everything we know about nutrition. The Telegraph’s article explained that the alertness might be attributed to the simple fact of eating breakfast, or to the glucose content in ice cream. As Rafi Letzter pointed out in Business Insider, “Cold and sugar will perk you up. But make regular meals of them and you’ll ruin your health.” He complains that since the Telegraph story hit the internet, other websites and reporters have repeated the claims, often without key details or any evidence that they’ve actually read the science they’re writing about.
“Science reporters, editors, and readers should make it clear in the strongest possible terms: This isn’t just a silly diversion,” he says. “It’s a kind of fake news, it degrades the institution of journalism, and it makes it harder for the public to tell scientific facts from sugar industry-fueled nonsense.” By the way, Yoshihiko Koga really is a professor at Kyorin University’s School of Medicine—but from what we could find his articles tended to have exciting titles like, “Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 presenting as psychosis.” READ MORE
New use for ransomware: Security experts say a recent attack on an Austrian hotel appears to be a novel example of an increasingly malicious and prevalent type of modern-day piracy. The weapon? A type of software known as ransomware. The electronic key system at the picturesque Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt had been infiltrated, and the hotel was locked out of its own computer system, leaving guests stranded in the lobby, causing confusion and panic. The email demanded a ransom of two Bitcoins, or about $1,800, and warned that the cost would double if the hotel did not comply with the demand by the end of the day, Jan. 22. Hotels should guard against copycat crimes by reinforcing their digital security. READ MORE
A new phishing scam: Security researchers have identified a “highly effective” phishing scam that’s been fooling Google Gmail customers into divulging their login credentials. The attacker, usually disguised as a trusted contact, sends a boobytrapped email to a prospective victim. Affixed to that email, there appears to be a regular attachment, say a PDF document. Rather than reveal a preview of the document when clicked, that embedded image links out to a fake Google login page—where you’re expected to enter your login credentials. This is just one of many reasons why corporate employees should be discouraged from using their Google account for corporate business. READ MORE
New weapon against superbug? An artificial cell has been created which is so lifelike it can communicate chemically with living cells. These man-made cells mimic natural cells and trick them into thinking they are no different from each other. The researchers who designed the cells hope that they could be used to attack disease-causing bacteria in the future. READ MORE
Don’t skip breakfast! Skipping breakfast or eating late in the day could raise the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, according to a new study. Writing in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, researchers from Columbia University said both meal timing and frequency are linked to risk factors for a variety of conditions including heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, blood glucose levels, obesity, and reduced insulin sensitivity. READ MORE
USDA ARS plans symposium: The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is sponsoring its fourth International Biosafety and Biocontainment Symposium on Feb. 6-9 in Baltimore. READ MORE
Robotics comes to the coffee shop: Baristas, cheery or otherwise, are nowhere to be seen at a new café in San Francisco. Customers at Cafe X Technologies, which opened this week, get their caffeine fix from a robotic arm that prepares coffee like it would assemble a car on a factory floor. READ MORE
Starbucks tweet storm: Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz says his company plans to hire 10,000 refugees in the next five years in the 75 countries where it does business. The predictable result was a tweet storm. As usual with a divisive topic, a group of Twitter users are pledging to stop supporting Starbucks, while those supportive of the refugee hiring news say they will buy coffee and food from the restaurant chain to support the move. Read more HERE and HERE.
Corporations should prepare for terrorism: Last week, some 800 Austrian police officers conducted a series of raids in the capital of Vienna and in Graz which saw 16 separate domestic premises searched and led to the arrest of 14 radical Islamists who are thought to be connected to the Islamic State terror group. Police say the raid was the result of a two-year long investigation into the radical Salafist network, Die Presse reports. Authorities said they also found 140 digital storage items that will be forensically examined by the domestic intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Christian Pilnacek, head of the criminal justice department in the Ministry of Justice, claimed the Islamists spoke of creating a “State of God” or an Islamic Caliphate theocracy. Police also allege that the group had recruited at least 40 people to engage in jihad.
This is a very significant case that illustrates the scope of the problem being experienced in Europe. Police and Intelligence operations in several nations are refocusing on shutting down terrorist networks that have gained strength in the last decade. Counterterrorism operations in Europe and elsewhere will be heavily influenced by changes expected from the Trump administration, which is reinforcing current federal law and planning major new policy development. Eliminating terrorist cells anywhere helps protect nations and people everywhere. Violent events in 2017 are expected to occur as ISIS territory shrinks, while their influence does not. Critical infrastructures like food, water and transportation will continue to be targets for ISIS and like-minded groups. Lone wolf events will continue to be problems for municipalities and law enforcement, seeking to shut down these threat actors before they strike. Corporations should plan in order to protect personnel and company brand. READ MORE
Food stamps for cash scam: A New Jersey man has admitted in federal court to running a food stamps-for-cash scheme that cost the government more than $800,000 over two years. Prosecutors say Miguel Antonio Azcona, 38, allowed customers at his Newark convenience store to trade Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for cash. Store employees would retain a portion of the transaction’s value for Azcona’s benefit, according to prosecutors. READ MORE
US Salmon may carry Japanese tapeworm: Adventurous diners may want to think twice before ordering that salmon sashimi. Researchers have discovered Japanese tapeworm larvae, originally thought to only infect fish caught in Asia, in salmon harvested off the coast of Alaska. According to a study published this month by Emerging Infectious Diseases by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, salmon caught throughout the Pacific Coast region may harbor the parasite. READ MORE
The dangers of carbon monoxide: We’ve warned about how carbon monoxide can be a silent, insidious killer, and here’s another example. The Daily Mail reports that last week, a San Francisco couple and their two cats died from poisoning after a laser 3D printer filled their home with carbon monoxide. Roger Morash, 35, his wife Valerie Morash, 32, and their pets were found dead inside their apartment in Berkeley, Calif. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates, both game developers, died from poisoning due the couple’s laser 3D printer, which emitted carbon monoxide in their residence, an officer said on Friday. When used in industry, the machine’s use of lasers on certain types of plastics can emit toxic gasses, including carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide. Researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology warned users against the potential dangers of 3D printers for home use, reported the Chicago Tribune. READ MORE
JUST FOR FUN
Need to know (?): This video explains how you can walk on eggs without breaking a single one. VIEW VIDEO
How to get started raising chickens: There’s a lot to like about raising your own chickens.The eggs are a real temptation—tastier and fresher than any store eggs and better for baking, too. The shells, along with the chicken poop, can be tossed right into the compost pile. Much of the day, the birds entertain themselves, picking at grass, worms, beetles, and all of the good things that go into making those yummy farm eggs. READ MORE
……and halts hiring of public health veterinarians and public health inspectors to fill critical staffing shortages at poultry and red meat slaughter plants nationwide.
By Stephanie R. Ostrowski, DVM, MPVM, DACVPM, FNAP
Public health veterinarians and public health inspectors with the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) work at slaughter plants and in the food processing chain to assure humane handling of livestock and poultry. They enforce federal regulatory standards for food safety and wholesomeness, enforce truth in labeling, and initiate recalls of products when necessary. These FSIS positions are designated as a “critical need” category with “direct hire” authority to expedite the hiring process when qualified candidates are identified. Hiring announcements for these positions have been continuously posted on www.USAJOBS.gov for over a year to address FSIS staffing needs at hundreds of poultry and red-meat processing plants nationwide. President Trump’s recent Executive Order for a government-wide hiring freeze (which exempts only the military and Homeland Security) thus affects USDA’s to hire critically needed Public Health Veterinarians just as 2017 graduates of veterinary colleges are submitting their applications for these positions. READ MORE
By Robert A. Norton
There are many places where adulteration, intentional or otherwise, of a food product can occur. Think of these as vulnerability points. Adulteration could occur on the farm where perishable fruit or vegetables are harvested or milk is collected. Adulteration could occur during transportation or processing of anything from live chickens or other meat animals to juice-yielding fruit. Opportunities for adulteration even occur in the food distributor’s warehouse or freezer, through the wholesaler to the retailer and the final end-use customer. Adulteration can also result from a cyberattack on a company that alters temperature-related parameters for cooking or storage. READ MORE