There is growing concern that U.S. food and agriculture systems are vulnerable to potential attack and deliberate contamination. The Department of Homeland Security has identified the food and agriculture industries on the list of critical infrastructure sectors that need protection.

“We have huge concerns about threats to our agriculture and food supply, such as small insecticide-disseminating planes that could actually be disseminating substances like molds or other spoilage organisms or the spreading of foot-and-mouth disease,” said Melvin Kramer, president of EHA Consulting Group Inc., Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Restaurant executives and managers need to be vigilant in safeguarding the security of the food they serve the public.

“A lot of departments within organizations are involved with addressing food defense, such as risk and safety, management, loss prevention, human resources and quality assurance,” said Donna Garren, vice president, Health and Safety Regulatory Affairs for the National Restaurant Association, based in Washington, D. C.

Garren said restaurants must have security plans in place to ensure food safety and address different types of risks.

“We’re trying to educate people to marry their strategies for food safety with those targeted for food defense, so that they can have a two-tier barrier in place to help operation at the restaurant level,” she said.

Restaurant executives and managers need to confirm their vendors have been approved and are helping to ensure the basic security and safety of their food products. It’s also important to keep a close eye on restaurant employees.

“The individuals who work for you can be your eyes and ears, or [they] might deliberately contaminate your food on site,” Garren said.

In the future, Garren believes restaurants, the hospitality and food industries will benefit from cutting-edge technology that will help to identify potential pathogens that can be both intentional and unintentional contaminants of food products.