The botnet that broke the Internet isn’t going away: Cyber-security continues to be a key food defense concern, and Wired magazine warns that things aren’t getting better: When the botnet named Mirai first appeared in September, it announced its existence by flooding a prominent security journalist’s website with traffic from zombie Internet of Things devices and then made much of the internet unavailable for millions of people by overwhelming Dyn, a company that provides a significant portion of the US internet’s backbone. Since then, the number attacks have only increased. Mirai, a type of malware that automatically finds devices to infect and conscripts them into a botnet (a group of computing devices that can be centrally controlled), is a powerfully disruptive force—and it’s not clear how to stop it. READ MORE
FBI will rely on foreign help to stop hackers: The emergence of cybercrime as a global phenomenon is causing the FBI and Justice Department to increasingly rely on international law enforcement collaboration, legal treaties and informal agreements in addition to cooperation from the private sector, reports Cyberscoop. READ MORE
Tracking tool uses open data and collective intelligence: Global Defense, a publication covering “pathogens and preparedness,” reports that researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Imperial College London have developed Microreact, a free, real-time epidemic visualization and tracking platform that has been used to monitor outbreaks of Ebola, Zika and antibiotic-resistant microbes. Team members have collaborated with the Microbiology Society to allow any researcher around the world to share their latest information about disease outbreaks. READ MORE
Inauguration concerns: The publication In Homeland Security from American Military University asks a disturbing question: Could ISIS carry out an attack during the upcoming presidential inauguration? ISIS’s recently renamed online journal, Rumiyah (which means Rome), mentioned that Donald Trump’s inauguration would be a good target for a terrorist attack. With regard to the presidential inauguration, ISIS has called for a truck or other large casualty-producing attack reminiscent of the attack in Nice, France, that killed 86 people on Bastille Day. It appears that ISIS is trying to entice ideologically sympathetic, homegrown followers to carry out its violent agenda. READ MORE
Counterterrorism kerfluffle: As President Barack Obama prepares to leave office and step down as commander-in-chief of America’s military, a flap has erupted over the secretive commandos who have become his go-to counterterrorist force across the globe. The current kerfuffle stems from a Washington Post story that said that the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), specifically its super-secret wing called the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), is being granted new powers to track and potentially attack terror cells around the world. READ MORE
Recalled undercooked chicken was used in other products: Ready-to-eat chicken from National Steak and Poultry that was recalled for undercooking is being used in products produced by other companies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) disclosed late Friday. In a statement, FSIS said it does not have confidence in the safety of any subsequently produced products that have used or incorporated the chicken products that were recalled by National Steak and Poultry on Nov. 23, with an expanded recall occurring on Dec. 4. READ MORE
Restaurants lousy at explaining risks of undercooked food: An article in Meatplace notes that front-line staff, such as servers in restaurants, are often trusted with providing customers with food safety information regarding their meals. A challenge to the foodservice industry is that these positions have high turnover, relatively low wages, and servers are focused primarily on providing patrons with a positive experience — and new research shows that this poses a food safety risk. READ MORE
Pesticide report reignites debate about fresh produce: Food Safety News notes that USDA’s Pesticide Data Program’s report for 2015 seems to be a strong warning to buy organic to be safe, but critics say it’s a false warning, especially for the poor at a time when the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says only one in 10 Americans are eating enough fruits and vegetables. READ MORE
Food poisoning may have been from pesticide: A food poisoning incident in India that reportedly resulted from food coming into contact with pesticides has left three women dead and two others ill, reports the India Blooms News Service. Five women were taken ill apparently after consuming food at a paddy field. Promedmail.org notes that there is not enough information to speculate on the pesticide involved, nor are any clinical signs listed. It is also note clear whether paddy fields were sprayed recently or it if the substance might have been in something the women brought with them or purchased on site. Promedmail.org, a service of the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases, is an Internet-based reporting system dedicated to rapid global dissemination of information on outbreaks of infectious diseases and acute exposures to toxins that affect human health, including those in animals and in plants grown for food or animal feed. READ MORE
Expert details steps to prevent insider biosecurity threats at labs: The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) reports on a review of attempted or actual attacks involving pathogens done last year as part of a dual-use research of concern (DURC) risk-benefit assessment for the U.S. government. The review found that the greatest risk to research institutions came from insiders, according to a policy forum today in Science. The author is Kavita Berger, PhD, from Gryphon Scientific, the Maryland life sciences poly analysis group that did the risk-benefit analysis for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) as part of its ongoing review of controversial experiments on H5N1 avian flu and other disease threats. Life science facilities or hospitals were targets in 26 of 93 incidents. Though most involved radical animal rights or environmental groups, some were malicious acts by insiders who sabotaged or destroyed others’ work. Ten were done by scientists or health professionals. Berger described several practices that research institutions can implement to reduce the threat, including not only physical measures, but also strategies such as behavioral risk assessment, anonymous systems for reporting suspicious incidents, strong leadership to promote secure and safe research, and ongoing mentorship to cultivate trusting relationships. She also discussed employee and student assistance programs and executive-level all-hazards risk assessment teams.
Vandals destroy 400,000 bottles of wine in act of sabotage: An act of sparkling wine skullduggery in northern Italy has left Europe with 400,000 fewer bottles of bubbly. Vandals broke into the centuries-old grounds of the Conte Vistarino winery in the middle of the night and drained refrigerated steel tanks where Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and other white varieties from the 2016 harvest were maturing. Employees arrived at work at the winery in the Lombardy hills south of Pavia last week to find the grounds soaked in grape juice and skins. READ MORE
ANIMAL FEED SAFETY
Food Protection and Defense Institute offers webinar on animal feed: The Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) requires covered animal food production facilities to develop food safety plans that include an analysis of hazards, considering known or reasonably foreseeable hazards. The hazard evaluation must include a number of factors, among those are an assessment of the severity of illness or injury if the hazard were to occur and the probability that the hazard will occur in the absence of preventive controls. This webinar at 10 a.m. Central Time on Friday, Jan. 13, will cover the development of a generic hazard analysis that includes assessments of hazard severity and probability of occurrence that may be useful to animal food producers as a starting point in development facility specific hazard analyses. REGISTER NOW
Scrapie Update: The monthly report for the National Scrapie Eradication Program for October 2016 is now available from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. No new positive classical scrapie cases have been reported in either sheep or goats so far in FY 2017, and no new infected or source flocks were designated in October 2016. Almost 40,000 sheep and goats were tested for scrapie in 2016, with only 13 positives. The last case of scrapie was reported in April 2016. Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of sheep and goats. Infected flocks that contain a high percentage of susceptible animals can experience significant production losses. READ MORE
Zika update: The Centers for Disease Control reports that there were 1,172 pregnant women with laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection in the U.S as of Nov. 30, 2016. There were an additional 2,639 pregnant women with laboratory evidence of possible infection in U.S. territories. READ MORE
Correction: The fish die-off article that appeared last Thursday on this blog incorrectly carried the byline of Robert Norton. The author actually was Dr. Stephanie Ostrowski, an associate professor of public health in the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. See the post HERE.