The Homeland security Advanced Research Projects Agency is seeking new laboratory detection technology to screen the food supply for hidden dangers. The system will need to quickly scan for biological pathogens or toxins that pose a threat to consumers.
HSARPA's Food Biological Agent Detection Sensor (FBADS) program seeks to develop a cost-effective detection method for use in food manufacturing and processing facilities. Ideally, according to HSARPA documents, the system would be able to get accurate readings for a wide range of potential threats in less than 20 minutes, with a minimum of human involvement. A low cost also is desired, "so that it can be absorbed by industry and have practical use beyond protection of the food supply."
The FBADS initiative responds to Homeland security Presidential Directive-9, "Defense of United States Agriculture and Food." That directive tries to place a framework around what many homeland security experts see as a large gap in the national defenses.
The food network has many openings for manmade and natural disasters, as witnessed by recent outbreaks of avian flu and foot-andmouth disease. "The United States agriculture and food systems are vulnerable to disease, pest or poisonous agents that occur naturally, are unintentionally introduced or are intentionally delivered by acts of terrorism," HSPD-9 states. …