TIGER, a high-tech tool to help investigate if terrorists were to strike Wisconsin’s vital food industry, has received one of only four grants awarded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to encourage new ways to protect the nation’s food system from agro-terrorism.
The FDA has awarded a $62,500 Innovative Food Defense grant for the TIGER project to the Food Safety Division, housed in the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
TIGER stands for Terrorist Incident GIS-Enhanced Response. Geographic information systems will be the centerpiece of TIGER. The department’s own GIS and food safety staff will develop a computer program using licensing and inspection information to develop computer maps that track where contaminated food may have been distributed. The intent is to make the information accessible not only to the department’s inspectors, but also to the affected businesses and other health agencies involved.
“This would help minimize the public health threat and the economic damage of an attack on Wisconsin’s food production and distribution system,” said Division Administrator Steve Ingham. “It would speed the effort to track down potentially contaminated food, better protecting consumers, and to clear food manufacturing facilities so they could reopen for business.”
The system could eventually be made available to other states, and elements of it could also be used in more common food safety emergencies, such as natural disasters or food-borne illness outbreaks.
“Wisconsin’s wide array of food-related businesses provides an excellent opportunity to develop and test new systems for food defense,” the grant application says in part. “Food manufacturing is Wisconsin’s largest manufacturing industry, generating gross annual sales of approximately $10 billion and employing 62,000 people statewide. Ore-Ida, Kraft, Sargento, Ocean Spray, Nabisco and Kikkoman Foods, as well as numerous small specialty producers are located in Wisconsin.”
The Food Safety Division is integrated into the state’s homeland security and emergency response system, which the Homeland Security Council coordinates. The council’s strategy identifies food and agriculture as critical infrastructure, and this grant will complement other homeland security grant projects such as one to analyze the state’s food system and efforts to integrate the private sector into emergency response plans.