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Module Two Food Defense & the Psychology of Terrorism. National Center for Food Protection & Defense Risk Communicator Training. Food Defense & the Psychology of Terrorism. Topic 1 Psychology of Fear & Trust Topic 2 The Food System as a Target of Attack Topic 3

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module two food defense the psychology of terrorism

Module TwoFood Defense & the Psychology of Terrorism

National Center for Food Protection & Defense

Risk Communicator


food defense the psychology of terrorism
Food Defense & the Psychology of Terrorism

Topic 1

Psychology of Fear & Trust

Topic 2

The Food System as a Target of Attack

Topic 3

Natural Disasters, Terrorism & Catastrophic Events

module 2 learner outcomes
Module 2Learner Outcomes
  • Compare and contrast fear and trust as adaptive survival processes.
  • Describe the positive and negative consequences of fear, denial and panic as adaptive responses to heightened risk.
  • Identify the factors that make the food system vulnerable to intentional attack.
learner outcomes continued
Learner Outcomes - continued
  • Compare and contrast characteristics of a natural or “traditional” disaster and an intentional terrorist attack.
  • Describe the psychological consequences of natural disasters and terrorism within the context of fear and trust.
module two food defense the psychology of terrorism1

module twoFood Defense & the Psychology of Terrorism

topic one

The Psychology of Fear & Trust

fear trust
Fear & Trust

Fear & trust are two adaptive survival processes

  • Slowly acquired
  • Readily extinguished
  • Difficult to re-establish
  • FEAR
  • Rapidly acquired
  • Slow to extinguish
  • Easily re-established
adjustment to risk






perceived risk


Adjustment to risk

Reactions change as risk increases.

SOURCE: Peter Sandman, 2005

we accept most risks well



We accept most risks well

Humans usually adapt well to risk.





SOURCE: Peter Sandman, 2005

fear as a adjustment reaction
FEAR as a adjustment reaction

Fear is our natural reaction in a crisis.

  • It is automatic
  • It comes early
  • It is temporary
  • It is a small over-reaction
  • It may need guidance
  • It serves as a rehearsal
  • It reduces later over-reaction

Fear is a useful


Let it happen!

reactions to perceived risk
Reactions to perceived risk

Over-reaction is our initial reaction to a new, potentially serious risk.

  • We pause
  • We become hyper-vigilant
  • We personalize the risk
  • We take extra precautions that are probably unnecessary, or at least premature.

SOURCE: Peter Sandman

heightened fear leads to denial
Heightened Fear Leads to Denial
  • Less common than fear
  • More dangerous than fear
  • More common response than panic
  • Denial is reduced when:
    • Legitimize the fear
    • Action – do something
    • Decision – given range of actions
what is panic
What is panic?
  • A sudden strong feeling of fear that prevents reasonable thought or action.
  • While “panicky feelings” are common… panic is rare.
response to the 2001 anthrax scare
Response to the 2001 anthrax scare

In the 3 impacted cities:

  • 1% - purchased gas masks
  • 5% - purchased antibiotic prescriptions (80% of these did not take prescriptions)
  • 98% opened mail as usual
  • 3% consulted doctor about anxiety
fear fear panic panic
“Fear Fear” & “Panic Panic”

Do NOT ‘Fear Fear’ or ‘Panic Panic’

  • Most people can cope & manage their fear
  • To “Fear Fear” & “Panic Panic” can result in unwise strategies:
      • Withhold information
      • Over assure
applying the concepts
Applying the concepts

Public’s Reaction to

Spinach – E.coli Outbreak

August-September, 2006

module two food defense the psychology of terrorism2

module twoFood Defense & the Psychology of Terrorism

topic two

The Food System

as a Potential Target of Attack

“I, for the life of me, cannot understand why

the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do.”

AP Photo

Tommy Thompson, former HHS Secretary

December 3, 2004

food safety security defense
Food Safety… Security… Defense








occurring or





on the food


Access to

adequate food


food system vulnerabilities
Food system vulnerabilities
  • Exposed crops
  • High concentrations of livestock and poultry
  • Vulnerability points along the farm-to-fork chain
  • Large batch sizes in processing
  • Imported foods from a complex and global supply chain
  • Growth in niche and foreign markets
strategic vulnerabilities
Strategic vulnerabilities
  • Ease in obtaining crop and animal pathogens
  • Mass contamination could yield huge consequences with minimal effort
  • Low risk in being detected, caught, or accidentally contaminated
  • Substantial economic and psychological impact – even in the case of a threat or hoax
beyond the terrorist who are the perpetrators
Beyond the Terrorist: Who are the perpetrators?
  • Usual suspects
    • Criminals
    • Extortionists
    • Subversives

- political ideologists

    • Terrorists
  • The not so obvious
  • Disgruntled employees
  • Competitors
  • Mentally ill
weapons of attack bioterrorism diseases agents
Category Aexamples:

Anthrax, botulism, plague, smallpox, tularemia, viral hemorrhagic

Category B examples:

Brucellosis, E.coli, salmonella, ricin, Staphylococcal enterotoxin B(SEB)

Category C:

Emerging pathogens that could be engineered

Weapons of Attack: Bioterrorism Diseases/Agents

Source: CDC

foodborne disease costs
Foodborne disease costs


  • Pain & suffering
  • Medical costs
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of leisure &


  • Increased insurance
  • Physical rehab
  • Long term care
  • Death expenses
  • Health care
  • Legislation
  • Plant inspection
  • Medical
  • investigation
  • & surveillance
  • Prosecution costs
  • Education costs
  • Clean-up &
  • disinfection
  • Product recall
  • Poor publicity
  • Loss of reputation
  • Legal liability
  • costs
  • Increased insur-
  • ance costs
  • Loss of business
  • Closure

SOURCE: Food Alert

recent food defense events
Recent FOOD DEFENSE events


751 people became ill after members of a religious cult contaminated salad bars in 10 restaurants in Oregon with Salmonella typhimurium

AP Photo

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

First came the stomach cramps and nausea. Next came dizziness and disorientation. It was the chills, fever, diarrhea and vomiting that finally sent them to their doctors. Nearly a thousand of them…

recent food defense events1
Recent FOOD DEFENSE events


Terrorists phoned the U.S. embassy in Santiago and claimed to have laced all Chilean grapes with cyanide

Chilean Fruit Pulled From Shelves as U.S. Widens Inquiry on Poison


Published: March 15, 1989

post sept 11 2001 events

Three Israeli-Arabs were arrested in Jerusalem for allegedly planning a mass poisoning of Israeli patrons at a local café.

Post Sept. 11, 2001 events
post sept 11 2001 events1
Fall, 2002

A China restaurateur added a chemical (rat poisoning) to a competitor’s food. 38 people died and hundreds were sent to hospitals.

Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, September 30, 2002

China Sentences Rat Poison Killer to Death

Post Sept. 11, 2001 events
new zealand fmd hoax
New Zealand FMD Hoax

May, 2005

New Zealand Prime Minister received letter claiming Food and Mouth Disease (FMD) was introduction on Waiheke Island. Was eventually determined to be a hoax. Cost was $1.5-2 million in compensation costs to dairy farmers on island.

Rural community near urban center (Auckland)

false claims hoaxes
False claims & hoaxes
  • Can seriously disrupt political, economic or psychological well-being
  • Copy cats are common & can interfere with actual response efforts
  • Internet is easy & effective tool for spreading false rumors
consumer attitudes expectations about food defense
Consumer attitudes & expectations about food defense

Goal: Learn consumers priorities on spending for terrorism defense – food relative to other targets

Conducted by: The Food Industry Center, University of Minnesota & sponsored by the National Center for Food Protection and Defense in April, 2005

Sample: 4000+ adult Americans internet responses; weighted to represent population

highlights of survey findings
Highlights of survey findings
  • Over 90% of people believe there will be another terrorist attack in this country in the next four years.
  • There is less likely to be a terrorist attack on the food system than on other economic sectors.
  • Government and food processors are held the most responsible for both food safety & food defense, but government bears more responsibility for food defense.
survey highlights continued
Survey highlights - continued
  • Retailers bear more responsibility & should bear more cost for food safety than food defense
  • Consequences of an attack on the food system are more serious than on other sectors.
  • Consumers would spend more to protect against a terrorist attack on the food system or against a chemical or biological release than they would for protecting airlines.
module two food defense the psychology of terrorism3

module twoFood Defense & the Psychology of Terrorism

topic three

Natural Disasters, Terrorism

and Catastrophic Incidents

natural and traditional disasters
Natural and ‘traditional’ disasters
  • Types of natural or traditional disasters
    • Fire, floods, earthquakes, drought, hurricanes, tsunamis, mechanical failures, explosions, etc.
  • Disasters due to acts of human error (accident) or neglect
    • Airplane crash, fire, building collapse, mislabeled product, etc.
characteristics of natural events
Characteristics of natural events
  • Well-defined time frame in terms of beginning and ending
  • Sensory cues are readily available
      • Where is the danger?
      • Where is safety?
terrorist events
Terrorist events
  • Types of terrorist events
    • CBRNE categories: chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive
  • Food defense focuses on chemical & biological
  • Goal of terrorism is primarily psychological – eroding sense of security & safety
characteristics of terrorist events
Characteristics of terrorist events
  • Intentional criminal acts directed toward others
  • Mysterious agents and/or source of symptoms
  • Random and outside of our control
  • Potential permanent & catastrophic harm & loss
  • No well-defined beginning or end
  • May not provide routine sensory cues
response to terrorist event




Response to terrorist event

These characteristics create a different and unique emotional charge than a natural or traditional disaster.

food terrorism challenges
Food terrorism challenges
  • Contamination may not be discovered for days or even weeks after the event
  • Even a threat or hoax involving the food supply can trigger mass anxiety and significant economic loss
  • May be significant number of ‘unknowns’ (‘mystery’)
factors associated with increased public concern fear
Catastrophic potential


Decision processes not understood

Lack of personal control

Involuntary exposure

Delayed effects

Children at risk

Risk to future generations

Lack of trust in relevant institutions

Much media attention

Previous history

Unclear benefits

Potentially irreversible effects

Origins caused by human actions (vs. act of nature)

Factors associated with increased public concern (fear)

- Covello, in NRC, 1989

risk communication
Risk Communication
  • Goal of terrorism is to create contextual fear and to eliminate trust in the various critical US infrastructures
  • In response, Risk Communication can:
    • Reduces the mystery of the agents OR
    • Help tolerate the mystery/uncertainty when faced significant ‘unknowns’

Less mystery yields less fear which yields more trust

take aways
Take Aways
  • Don’t ‘fear fear’ or experience ‘panic panic’
  • Most people can cope & manage their fear
  • If we ‘fear fear’ official reactions to terrorist attacks may provoke unnecessary & unwise steps:
      • Withholding information
      • Over assurance
take aways continued
Take Aways – continued
  • Food defense addresses an intentional attack on the food system; food safety pertains to natural or accidental contamination.
  • The dynamic nature of the food system makes it particularly vulnerable to attack.



For Effective Food Defense

  • Listen to public’s concerns & understand audience