N.J. warns of biothreat to food

New Jersey's Department of Health and Senior Services has requested that local health departments inform retail food establishments with a buffet or a self-service salad bar about the potential for a terrorist threat to poison food.

A CBS News report earlier in the month stated that terrorists might be planning to use cyanide and ricin to poison food at multiple hotels and restaurants. The DHSS's Food and Drug Safety Program has issued a public health advisory, requesting that local health departments visit or call retail food establishments to inform them of the threat, according to NJ.com.

"In particular, salad bars and buffets need to be closely monitored by restaurant staff, and any suspicious activity must be reported immediately," Richard M. Ritota, manager of the DHSS Food and Drug Safety Program, said in an e-mail message, according to NJ.com. "Establishments in the retail and wholesale food sectors are advised to instruct employees to be vigilant and to report to their supervisors and suspicious behavior.

Attached to the e-mail alert sent by Ritota was a self-inspection checklist, NJ.com reports. Many inspectors throughout the state have begun distributing information and contacting establishments with buffets and salad bars. Several officials have followed up with these facilities personally to ensure that they meet the standards of the checklist and that they understand the severity of the threat.