Agroterrorism and food terrorism have been identified as important homeland security issues by officials in the public health, government, and food industry sectors of the U.S. Intentional contamination of food has already occurred both abroad and in North America. Outbreak investigation and control measures in response to intentional contamination differ from those employed in cases of naturally occurring contamination. Operations-based exercise efforts specific to bioterrorism events are essential to train public health personnel and first responders to consider the possibility of deliberate contamination during an outbreak investigation. A recent search of the Rand Corporation's Public Health Preparedness database identified no operations-based (functional or full-scale) exercises involving foodborne contamination with a biological or chemical agent.This manuscript describes a functional exercise developed and conducted by the University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine, Section of Community Health and Preventive Medicine. The functional exercise simulated a food-borne terrorism event and was designed to evaluate the efficacy of the Food Emergency Response Plan (FERP) of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Division of Food, Drugs and Dairies (DFDD). The exercise was held on November 18th and 19th, 2008 at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL.Based on this and previous exercises and training programs developed and conducted by CHPM, it is apparent that the more exercise designers, evaluators and public health and support agency participants move away from discussion based exercises and towards operations based exercises, the more strengths and deficiencies in preparation and response of participating agencies are revealed. Although public health agencies have begun training personnel and partner agencies to consider intentional contamination of food during an outbreak investigation, the relative lack of widespread operations-based exercises to assess preparedness in response to an intentional incident of food-borne contamination seems to be an important deficiency in homeland security. Additional funding to create opportunities for public health and first responder personnel to participate in operations-based bioterrorism response exercises is needed.

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