Updated Mexico travel warning: Food company executives need to be aware that the U.S. State Department has updated its travel warning for Mexico. There has been little change in Mexican states notorious for drug cartel activity, but the warning specifies certain cities and roads in these states where U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel. One part of Mexico that was previously considered relatively safe and now has an extensive list of municipalities to avoid is the State of Mexico, also known as Edomex. No advisory is in effect for Mexico City. The state of Tamaulipas, which shares a long international border with the U.S., has been the hottest spot in Mexico for cartel violence in the last few years. The state department warns that U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to Tamaulipas because of violent crime, adding that the number of reported kidnappings in Tamaulipas is among the highest in Mexico and that state and municipal law enforcement capacity is limited to nonexistent. The warning also notes a spike in murders in Baja California, a popular tourist destination. The good news is that there is no evidence criminal organizations have targeted U.S. citizens and that resort areas and tourist destinations are generally safe. READ MORE

Beware the insider threat: One of the biggest threats to any food corporation is the dissatisfied or malevolent insider, and “the insider threat is never going to go away.” This statement, echoed by many in government and directly at a recent conference by Vice Adm. Jan Tighe, deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare and director of naval intelligence, is a recognition that the insider threat problem is virtually impossible to defend against. READ MORE


FBI says terrorists may target food sector: Many people associate terrorism with spectacular attacks such as those that occurred on September 11. However, lone wolf attacks are far more likely to happen in what has unfortunately become the new normal. “The last thing on your mind is a terrorist being interested in food. It does exist, and bad guys do have an interest in this area,” said Special Agent Scott Mahloch, weapons of mass destruction coordinator for the Chicago division of the FBI during the Food Safety Consortium last week. What does this mean for the food industry? READ MORE

Harnessing the Power of Terrorism and Extremist Violence in the United States: A free webinar on assessing lone-wolf drone terror threats with the Terrorism and Extremist Violence in the United States (TEVUS) Portal is scheduled for 11 a.m. Eastern Time on Dec. 16. The TEVUS Portal is a free, public-facing online interface and visualization tool that compiles behavioral, geographic, and temporal characteristics of extremist violence in the U.S. dating back to 1970. Users have access to the underlying open-source TEVUS database, which holds a wealth of information on terrorism and extremist crime. Users can build customized search queries that allow exploration of data locally, regionally or nationally, and over time. This presentation will introduce participants to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), the TEVUS Portal, and the TEVUS Database. TO REGISTER


Record fine in food-safety case: Omaha-based ConAgra Grocery Products owns the peanut processing facility in Sylvester, Ga., that 10 years ago was making Peter Pan brand and Wal-Mart’s Great Value brand peanut butter. A unit of the Chicago-based food conglomerate ConAgra Inc., the company on Tuesday pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor charge of shipping peanut butter contaminated with Salmonella, causing a nationwide outbreak a decade ago. The plea resulted in a fine of $8 million, plus an additional $3.2 million asset forfeiture. ConAgra had discovered as early as 2004 that it was having a problem with Salmonella contamination but continued to ship the product out. Some 150 people claimed to have gotten sick from the tainted peanut butter, although there were no reported deaths. That is in contrast to the notorious Peanut Corp. or America case, which resulted in nine deaths and prison sentences for company principals (the two cases were not related). READ MORE

Poultry industry on ‘devastating’ bird flu alert: British poultry producers have been ordered to keep their birds indoors for 30 days, in a bid to protect the industry from a “devastating” outbreak of avian flu. READ MORE


Bamboo shows promise as Alabama crop: Far removed from Asia, bamboo is growing on farmland in the black dirt of west Alabama. Major opportunities are aligning for bamboo production in the United States, and even a small slice of the global market could bring windfall profits to American agriculture. The U.S. is a second-class participant in the $60-billion international bamboo industry as an importer and consumer but hasn’t yet entered the production side of growing and manufacturing. However, the sideline status of U.S. agriculture is rapidly changing: Bamboo is set to go big on U.S. farmland. READ MORE