Experts gather to fight bioterror attacks on food chain

With a significant portion of America’s food supply being imported, consumers are vulnerable to tainted food and intentional bioterrorism attacks, according to experts gathering at this year’s International Symposium on Agroterrorism in Kansas City.

Approximately 600 delegates attended the three day conference, sponsored in part by the FBI and the Heart of America Joint Terrorism Task Force, reports. The main mission of the event is to protect the food supply worldwide while illustrating the importance of a coordinated effort.

U.S. food and agricultural product imports have been rising for decades, increasing from $41 billion in 1998 to $78 billion in 2007, according to the USDA. An estimated 50 percent of U.S. food is now imported.

“There are more firms registered with the Food and Drug Administration to supply food to the U.S. from outside the country than there are inside the country,” Shaun Kennedy, deputy director of the National Center for Food Protection and Defense at the University of Maryland, said, according to

The CDC estimates that, each year, roughly one in six Americans, or approximately 48 million people, contract a food-borne disease.

To counter these threats, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 in January. This initiative aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it.

Seen as an important first step, many health officials suspect it will take a great deal of vigilance to protect the American food supply, reports.