Agroterrorism is a threat to national security and could result in increased human illnesses and deaths, widespread destruction of crops and livestock, and significant economic loss to the nation’s farmers and ranchers. The USDA’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Coordination (OHSEC) is charged with overseeing and coordinating the agency’s efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to agroterrorism. Now the Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued an audit that is very critical of OHSEC’s efforts, saying OHSEC has not done an adequate job. Also, the report says, OHSEC did not demonstrate that USDA was in compliance with Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-9 requirements to defend the agriculture and food system against terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies. The report made 14 recommendations, with OHSEC accepting 11 of them. READ MORE


The need for water: “Water was the biggest thing,” says journalist Tim McDonnell of the scene at the refugee settlement of Palorinya in northern Uganda. Since December, 146,000 South Sudanese have crossed the border, fleeing the violence of the civil war. And without enough water to drink, they would quite literally die. He’d see them line up each day with their jerrycans to get the 15 liters of water for daily use, the minimum for daily needs according to the World Health Organization. And it has to cover drinking, cooking, washing up and other sanitation needs. McDonnell had come to Africa on a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship to cover climate change and its impact on food; At Palorinya, he saw a need to explore the topic of getting water to hundreds of thousands of desperate people. READ MORE


Zika detected in every state: Zika had been reported in every U.S. state as of March 29, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reports include both symptomatic disease cases and “presumptive viremic blood donors” detected through routine screening by blood collection agencies. The largest number of symptomatic disease cases was in Florida, with 1,114 reports. That was followed closely by the state of New York, with 1,016 symptomatic cases. Even the sparsely populated far-north states of Wyoming and the Dakotas reported cases, with Wyoming and South Dakota reporting two and North Dakota reporting three. In some cases people might be reported in both categories (symptomatic and presumptive). A total of 216 Florida symptomatic cases and six Texas cases are presumed to have been spread by local mosquitos, the CDC said. Pregnant women infected with Zika are known to pass the illness on to their fetuses. The CDC’s March 14 report said that of 1,228 completed pregnancies in 2016 and 2017, 54 infants born live had birth defects. Read more HERE and HERE.


Learn more about the IoT: Check out Food Processing magazine’s special report on how data is gathered and information is shared. Two food processors share their experiences with wireless networks, cloud computing, and information management, and an in-depth case study describes how SugarCreek renovated a food plant and Cisco wired it for the industrial Internet of Things. DOWNLOAD NOW


Supply problems ‘roll downhill’: Why do food companies wait for a crisis before investing resources to fix problems? The costs of a recall can be staggering, and you need to worry about your suppliers’ facilities as well as your own because—as food industry consultant and attorney Shawn Stevens notes—all supplier issues eventually flow downstream. “Put simply, your supplier’s problems will always become your own,” he writes in the blog (free registration required). As FSIS focuses more intently on allergen control, and FDA continues to conduct high intensity environmental sampling in food facilities throughout the country, more and more supplier problems are being discovered. READ MORE


Death toll continues to rise in Syrian chemical attacks: The death toll in the chemical attacks carried out on Syrian civilians has risen to at least 99, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. More than 400 casualties and injuries have been documented as a result of the successive attacks carried out by warplanes on Syrian cities. The Syrian Observatory has documented the deaths of 37 children under the age of 18, 20 women over the age of 18, and 42 young men in raids targeting the cities of Khan Shaykhun, Salqeen, and Jisr al-Shughur in Idlib province. Also targeted were the cities and towns of Douma, Saqba, KafrBatna, Hamuriya, and Jesrin in the Eastern Ghouta, where 58 civilians including 19 children and 13 women were killed. The death toll is expected to rise. Food companies are cautioned to keep tight control over supplies of chemicals such as chlorine and ammonia gas. READ MORE