WASHINGTON -- The safety of the nation's food-distribution supply has gained an even stronger line of defense, after the Food Marketing Institute here created the Food Industry Information Sharing and Analysis Center.
FMI launched ISAC in conjunction with the National Infrastructure Protection Center, an intelligence clearinghouse and special branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Tim Hammonds, president and chief executive officer of FMI, told SN the partnership seeks to protect the industry from threats of any possible kind. "Any kind of malicious attacks -- bioterrorism; physical attacks on stores, distribution centers or trucks carrying food items; cyber-attacks on our computer systems or financial networks aimed at shutting down our ability to do business -- all these are covered," Hammonds said.
FMI said ISAC has a threefold mission:
Provide information and analysis that will enable the food industry to report, identify and reduce its vulnerability to malicious attack, and to recover from any attacks as quickly as possible.
Help the NIPC and FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Operations Unit identify credible threats and craft specific warning messages for the industry.
Have experts available to help the NIPC and FBI assess specific threats.
Hammonds said that the NIPC receives information from every federal agency, and thus has a greater ability to recognize a threat earlier than most other agencies.
ISAC works in two directions, Hammonds said. "This partnership with the NIPC provides a way for anyone in the industry to report possible threats to the food supply in a way that is completely secure," he said. "And secondly, if any agency sees any potential hazards, they will be immediately forwarded to ISAC via the NIPC. We can then issue alerts and also provide possible counter-measures to our members quickly and securely."
Hammonds added that ISAC membership is free, and that anyone involved in the food business can register with ISAC through FMI. "We invite all segments of the food industry to contact us so that we can develop a cooperative approach to prevent deliberate acts that would threaten the safety of our food supply and the customers we serve," he said. All registrants will be screened to ensure that they are actual members of the industry, Hammonds added.
Ronald L. Dick, director of NIPC, said that FMI was the clear choice for ISAC leadership. "The food industry is so large and diverse that there are literally thousands of contact points," Dick said. "But the entire industry comes together in the supermarket. That makes FMI a logical organization to coordinate an industrywide effort."
This new initiative does not replace existing mechanisms for reporting criminal incidents, Hammonds said.