Of peppers and preparedness

What can a chili pepper teach us about disaster preparedness? In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began issuing advisories about a foodborne salmonella outbreak that was detected in the United States. At the end of August, the agencies announced with little fanfare that the outbreak was over. According to the CDC, there were 1,442 cases in 43 states and at least 286 hospitalizations.

An incident of biological terrorism has great potential to pose even greater challenges than the summer’s salmonella outbreak. The substance involved may sound familiar, such as salmonella, E. coli, or botulism, but a carefully orchestrated attack at one or more points high up in the food distribution chain or in a public venue such as a major vacation destination would likely present a true investigative nightmare that would challenge currently available resources.