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Reported Food Defense Measures Practiced in Schools in the United States: A National Survey

Much research about food safety has focused on how consumers and foodservice employees can protect food from unintentional bacterial contamination and growth. An emerging area of study is how to prevent the food supply from being intentionally contaminated with chemicals or pathogens by someone with criminal intent. Motives for those behind intentional food contamination include a desire to: create fear, bring attention to a cause, or weaken the government. In addition, intentional contamination methods may be used to commit crimes such as murder and revenge (Woteki & Kineman, 2003). Because schools house a community’s children on approximately half of the days of the year, intentional contamination of food served in a school would cause great fear, both locally and nationally. The topic of food defense in retail foodservices, particularly schools, has received limited investigation. This study will assess the risk perception of intentional food tampering of a national sample of school nutrition program directors and will determine the measures taken in school districts to mitigate the risk of intentional food contamination. Phase I of this study will consist of a Delphi panel of 10 to 15 school nutrition program directors representing four district sizes. Phase II of the study will consist of development and electronic distribution of a survey to a national sample of school nutrition program directors. Phase III of this study will consist of on-site observations of food defense practices in a small and a very large district in the Midwest.