Departing U.S. Secretary Confirms 2001 Warnings of Foodborne Terrorist Attacks

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During his resignation speech on December 3, departing Health Secretary Tommy Thompson confirmed warnings made by experts years earlier that the U.S. food supply is at risk for terrorism.

As U.S. Health Secretary Tommy Thompson made his resignation speech on Friday, December 3, he spoke several words that instilled a relatively new fear in the minds of many Americans:

"For the life of me," Thompson said, "I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do."

Not surprisingly, Thompson immediately faced sharp criticism for publicly revealing a weakness in national security that had not been even a passing concern for most citizens. However, his words may have also given exposure to a very important matter that apparently deserved more attention from federal officials.

Thompson's comments also confirmed warnings released in 2001 by Kessler International, an investigative consulting firm based in New York City, that terrorists might utilize food and drug supplies as a means of distributing terror.

In an October 2001 press release, Kessler reported on the global criminal industries of counterfeiting and product diversion, and how they could be used to dispense deadly poisons such as ricin and biological agents such as anthrax or botulism through our food supply. Specifically, imitation and illegally distributed brand name products were named as prime routes for possible terrorist activity:

"A major consideration should be made when purchasing items of questionable authenticity. With all of the reports of anthrax being circulated in the past few weeks we are quite conscious of the threat of biological warfare, of which we could easily fall prey. What better way to spread such plagues, but with the use of products that Americans feel safe purchasing and using."

The article went on to list evidence linking counterfeiting and diversion to terrorism, and suggested increased vigilance by the government and greater involvement by citizens as potential solutions to the counterfeiting crisis faced by countless nations. To view the entire article, visit

Not surprisingly, the warnings made by Kessler more than three years ago still carry enormous weight and validity, and if Thompson's farewell speech (in which he spoke of worrying about food poisoning "every single night") is any indication, the U.S. food and drug supply may be in greater danger than ever before.

"It is crucial that we remain cautious of any possible foodborne attack," said Michael Kessler, President of Kessler International, "and that we make a concerted effort to bring down the counterfeiting industry, which is not only a danger to our economy and our health, but is a proven source of terrorist funding."

Interestingly, while the sale of counterfeit drugs has remained a hot topic for years, the topic of phony foodstuffs has not received much press, nor has it been visibly addressed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is understandable that the possibility of fake or tainted drugs would garner national attention, especially considering the price of many prescriptions these days and past disasters such as the string of over-the-counter cyanide poisonings in the 1980's. However, the prospect of alerting the public that food might be laced with toxic substances has probably been considered a double-edged sword at best. While awareness and scrutiny of the food supply would undoubtedly increase, so too would public paranoia. And of course, many consider that spilling the beans about our inability to safeguard our food supply only gives terrorists and sociopaths unnecessary ideas and motives.

Regardless, with Thompson's recent comments, a portion of our security system's underbelly has been revealed to the public. Undoubtedly, the eyes and ears of security officials will be on a higher level of alert... but will this be enough? Unfortunately, we may not truly know the answer until it is too late.

Hopefully, people in high places will heed Kessler's warning this time around, making the discovery and seizure of counterfeit foods a higher priority. The lives of our fellow American citizens may depend on it.

Kessler International is headquartered in New York City, with offices in Hauppauge, NY, Miami, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, London and Hong Kong. For more information about Kessler International or for further information regarding counterfeiting, please contact Michael Kessler at 1-800-932-2221 or visit the Kessler International website at

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Michael Kessler