Threats to food supplies may result from accidental, intentional or natural release of CBRN agents in one or more stages of the food supply chain, which may reach the final consumer rendering him/her susceptible to induced diseases or even death. Terrorist groups are able to easily obtain a vast variety of scientific information which can be misused to cause great concern to the general population. They may use this information for bioterrorism acts in some of the less secure and more vulnerable stages of the food supply chain, using only simple and cheap release devices.
Beyond the terrorism point of view, natural releases of pathogens have been detected throughout time, which can ultimately culminate in an incident of diseases and sometimes loss of life. The vegetable sprouts that caused the incident of Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) in Europe is one of the recent incidents pertaining to this case, which summed up to a huge financial loss estimated to at least, 150 million euros. Food terrorism is defined by the World Health Organization as: “an act of threat of deliberate contamination of food for human consumption with biological, chemical and physical agents or radionuclear materials for the purpose of causing injury or death to civilian populations and /or disrupting social, economic or political stability”. Several groups, such as protesters, criminals, terrorists, subversives and disgruntled insiders are prone to pursue these kinds of acts in both domestic and crossborder attacks. It is thus important to test and evaluate the performance of existing technologies for CBR analysis, for analysis of harmful substances in food (SNIFFER will contribute to this). The mentioned drawbacks (insufficient detection capacity; time consuming analysis, etc…) and security issues have led this consortium to propose the development of a proof-of-concept (the SNIFFER project), where available detection devices (for CBR) and a novel sensor technology are combined and interconnected in a network to increase the overall security of the food chain. These detection devices can be used in vulnerable areas of the food chain in order to provide the operator with the required information to assess the security of the monitored zones.
The SNIFFER project will also provide a set of guidelines on how to respond after detection of a hazardous and dangerous substance within the food, in order to minimize the effects or even nullify the occurrence of an incident to the public. Therefore, project SNIFFER presents the clear objective of rendering the food supply chain more secure by applying both commercially available devices and novel technology in a network environment comprising the mentioned sensors. The envisioned network can potentially cover the entire food supply chain in which various detection devices will be spread through more vulnerable points of the food supply chain. The detection devices to be developed throughout this project have the advantageous features of being portable, easy to use and reusable.
Project SNIFFER will also be devoted to the conception of a guidebook with recommendations on how to use the SNIFFER system and with countermeasure plans to be used in a CBR agent incident within the food supply chain. These plans will comprise the corrective counter-measure that the operator should perform in order to mitigate, restrain or ultimately eradicate the CBR agent within the food supply chain.
The SNIFFER consortium has established a precise and main objective for this project which is to:
- Increase the security of the food supply chain by developing a network of detection devices to detect CBR agents introduced in food either by accidental, natural or intentional means
- Create new and innovative sensor devices based on the molecular imprinted polymers (MIPs) technology in combination with fluorogenic probes.