James N. Klapthor

The Fall season proved to be a busy time of year for a host of IFT members and Food Science Communicators who drew upon their extensive experience in food safety topics to provide professional insight on timely issues.

Lester Crawford, Center for Food & Nutrition Policy in Washington D.C., provided ABC News.com with an assessment of the nation’s food supply system and its possibility as a target for terrorist attacks in the October 19 article, “Tasty Target?” Crawford told the Web news source he believes existing government safeguards would prevent large numbers of deaths in the event of an attack. But, he said, deaths might be possible in a well-planned attack, and even a few deaths may incite fear among consumers. “I can’t answer what a terrorist would consider a success,” said Crawford. “If you’re talking about killing off or making ill an extremely large number of people, I don’t think you’re going to see any more people than we’re now seeing with the anthrax. . . . How much damage could (be done)? I think the real answer to that is very little.” ABC News.com is the interactive online service for ABC News. It averages 3.4 million visitors per month.

Crawford was not the only IFT member utilized by ABC News.com. Food Science Communicator Douglas Holt, University of Missouri, gave a quick, demonstrative overview of irradiation for readers interested in the process of irradiation and how it could make U.S. mail safe from anthrax disease. In the article, “Zapped Mail,” published on October 30, Holt told ABC News.com, “The beam of electrons, for all the world, act like a machine gun shooting bullets.” The article described how the electron beam penetrates cell walls of any living organisms, including bacteria, and breaks down the cells inner structures. This online article is accessible via ABC News.com by inputting Holt’s name in the ABC News.com search engine. The online article featuring Crawford is also accessible by this simple procedure.

The New York Times is keeping pace with the other major national news outlets by providing its readers with food safety information as it relates to terrorism. On October 24, the Times headline read, “Officials Say Food Supply Is Vulnerable to Terrorism,” and utilized the comments of IFT members James Gorny, International Fresh-cut Produce Association, and Food Science Communicator Michael Doyle, University of Georgia. According to Doyle, a variety of virulent bacteria and viruses could be used to contaminate food, and E. coli O157, Salmonella typhi, Shigella dysenteriae, Cyclospora, and hepatitis A are the most likely weapons. “The threat is real and more real in some types of food,” said Doyle. Gorny said that industry has been working with the government to emphasize its capabilities to increase safety of the food supply, and chlorine washes would kill many pathogens, but the best safety measures aim at preventing attacks. As one of the nation’s most-read sources of daily news and information, The New York Times circulates more than one million papers daily, and its Web site averages three million visitors per month.

Just four days after comments by Gorny and Doyle appeared in the Times, former IFT President Frank Busta was quoted on the topic of food bioterrorism. In the October 28 article, “Farmers and Processors Act to Close Holes in Security,” Busta captured the tone with his comment, “The supermarket is an open target. It could be tampered with so easily, it’s unnerving.” Rhona Applebaum, National Food Processors Association, addressed briefly the industry perspective of emphasizing security to ensure food safety. “Can they test every single chemical or every single agent that is a hazard?” she said, “They can’t. There aren’t enough labs, enough people to test for everything that can do harm.”

While food safety and terrorism are currently the hot food topics among the powerful news media, an important national news wire service was attracted to new food research at the University of Georgia. The Associated Press distributed to its member organizations on October 21 an article entitled, “Researchers Work on Smart Pantries,” drawing upon the perspectives of two IFT members. Stan Prussia and his research associates have developed a climate-controlled pantry and electronic fruit bowls, according to the article. “You can’t throw everything in that crisper and have everything be at the right temperature and relative humidity,” said Prussia. “They each have a different specialized requirement.” “With the climate-controlled pantry, each drawer has a separate environment,” he said. “This prevents cross-contamination.” Prussia and Rob Shewfelt, experimented with many fruits and vegetables and said their findings can apply to a wide variety of produce. “A banana can go from green tips to brown spots in 12 to 24 hours,” Shewfelt said. “With this appliance, you can extend that to at least two to three days.” He said that the pantry, with its advanced control system, would “learn” a family’s specific requirements and respond to them. The Associated Press provides news content to 1,700 newspapers worldwide in five different languages.

Media Relations Manager