The Department of Food Science, in collaboration with Purdue’s Homeland Security Institute and the Krannert School of Management, has developed a program that assists companies, local and national-level first responders, and academicians to understand and measure the impacts of an intentional contamination of our food supply. By creating a realistic simulation environment, participants can learn what their options are, what to expect from first responders, all while measuring effects of decision-making and helping to understand how to respond to such an event. Our team has developed an existing dynamic and configurable interactive model (Figure 1), and this model had been delivered as a real-time exercise to food companies, state/local government agencies, and other stakeholders that would be involved in food defense related issues.
Food industry professionals address risks of inherent pathogens on a regular basis. In the event of a food terror attack, it will be these same industry professionals that will make decisions based on information provided to them by the government and media. Regulatory agencies are considered “first responders” in the event of most crises, however, experience in previous exercises, leads us to believe government may not take a leading role in an attack until later in the crisis. If this is the case, it affirms our assumptions that food companies serve as the frontline in food defense. Currently, most table top exercises are built around government response, with industry allowed as participants. Government responders of an attack on the food supply should know and anticipate what actions the food industry will want to perform. These, along with industry professionals, are the takeaways of the government participants. This computer exercise allows industry to play this role along side government agencies.
Table top exercises do exist, however, they do not account for the impacts of decision making by participants. In an earlier version of the exercise, possible effects of the scenario could have resulted in 1.5 million illnesses and 1000 deaths. Due to decisions made by the company and government participants, there were 55,000 illnesses and 30 deaths but included $645 million in recall costs. By modeling the range of potential outcomes of threat control and intervention strategies from these exercises, and including results from the previous exercises, a best-practice approach can be developed by analyzing costs and public health consequences due to decision-making approaches.
The graduate-level class, FS 690I, is a class that students can elect to take. Once approved by their major professors, students collect real-life data from companies and government officials. These data are then put into the simulation algorithms. The needed data are identified through the interactions with the Krannert School of Management and Homeland Security Institute personnel. The "simulation team" works closely, ensuring that the communication and research are complimentary to each other, enhancing the existing model.
Once the data is collected and the model improved, the students, along with the Department of Food Science’s Administrative Director, hold a simulation event, inviting stakeholders from around the country. Four simulations have been held, all of which have attracted industry and government officials, leading the efforts to protect our food supply.
- Dave Wankowski, Kraft: "I've gone through a number of food defense exercises but this was the best, by far. It also has the greatest potential of any of them."
- Jeremy Stump, USDA Dir. of Homeland Security: "The outreach component and the opportunity to talk and interact with companies are exceptional."
- Bill Aimutis, Cargill: "We found the exercise to be very useful, so much so, we have recommended it to be used as an internal training tool."
- Terry Van Meter, Butterfield Foods/Marsh: "I found the exercise to be great fun and educational. If such an event were to occur in real life, I wonder if information would be so freely and quickly shared. I fear it would not be so."