Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University


Publications




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Analyzing a Bioterror Attack on the Food Supply: The Case of Botulinum Toxin in Milk

Journal Article

Authors
Lawrence M. Wein - Faculty Member at CISAC
Yifan Liu

Published by
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 102 no. 28, page(s) 9985-9989
12 July 2005


We developed a mathematical model of a cows-to-consumers supply chain associated with a single milk-processing facility that is the victim of a deliberate release of botulinum toxin. Because centralized storage and processing lead to substantial dilution of the toxin, a minimum amount of toxin is required for the release to do damage. Irreducible uncertainties regarding the dose-response curve prevent us from quantifying the minimum effective release. However, if terrorists can obtain enough toxin, and this may well be possible, then rapid distribution and consumption result in several hundred thousand poisoned individuals if detection from early symptomatics is not timely. Timely and specific in-process testing has the potential to eliminate the threat of this scenario at a cost of less than 1 cent per gallon and should be pursued aggressively. Investigation of improving the toxin inactivation rate of heat pasteurization without sacrificing taste or nutrition is warranted.