U.S. Restaurants Targeted by Terrorists
Terrorist Plot â?? al Qaeda Plans Poisoning U.S. Salad Bars and Buffets
Congress, Law Enforcement Focus on Food Safety
Forget the exploding shoes, printer ink and underwear and start worrying about the lettuce and dressing. There is growing evidence that terrorists have planned to poison food at U.S. restaurant salad bars and buffets. The al Qaeda group that built two toner-cartridge bombs in an unsuccessful attempt to blow up planes in October also has contemplated spreading poison on salad bars and buffets at U.S. hotels and restaurants. But U.S. officials sought to downplay the threat â?? first reported by CBS News â?? saying it was months old, and that it was more in the nature of a discussion of â??tacticsâ?? than an actual plot. Officials implied the tactic is beyond the capabilities of the terrorist organization, which is based in the Middle East. The United States has received information that al Qaeda was considering the tactic of placing ricin and cyanide poisons into food supplies, DHS officials confirmed to CNN. In response to that information, U.S. officials met through regular channels with representatives of the hotel and restaurant businesses to discuss the possibility that terrorists could target the food supply, and to reiterate â??best practicesâ?? to ensure the food supply is safe. Officials, however, likened the threat to numerous others discussed in jihadist publications such as the online magazine Inspire, where al Qaeda members and sympathizers discuss various ways to attack Western countries. â??Weâ??re talking months, not weeks (ago), that this came into the threat stream,â?? one official said. Another U.S. official said, â??Weâ??re aware that terrorists have been interested in doing this kind of thing for a long time. Theyâ??ve said as much and, as a result, we take all of this very seriously. But we donâ??t know of any current plotting along these lines.â?? In other food safety news, a bill that would overhaul the nationâ??s food-safety laws for the first time since the Great Depression came roaring back to life December 19 as Senate Democrats struck a deal with Republicans that helped overcome a technical mistake made 3 weeks ago and a filibuster threat that seemed likely to scuttle the legislation. After a weekend of negotiations, tense strategy sessions and several premature predictions about the billâ??s demise, the Senate majority leader, a Democrat, reached a deal with the minority leader, a Republican, that the GOP would not filibuster. Without notice and in a matter of minutes that evening, the Senate approved the bill by unanimous consent, sending it to the House, where passage is expected. The U.S. President has said he would sign the legislation, which would give the government far-reaching authority to set and enforce safety standards for farmers and food processors. The legislation would affect all whole and processed foods except meat, poultry and some egg products, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.