The 11 Most Horrifying Ways Terrorists Have Poisoned Food Throughout History

One of the main goals of domestic and foreign terrorism is to cause as much panic as possible. Groups from all over the world have found one of the easiest ways to spread havoc is to inform a city, state, or nation that they have an unsafe food supply. Historically, terrorists have tampered with food using everything from cyanide to ricin. Many terrorists actually find it’s much easier to insist that they’ve messed with food rather than to actually go through with the work of breaking into a food containment unit and run the risk of getting caught. Both methods inspire the same amount of fear, and they can both be just as fatal.

Claims of ISIS tampering food have come up periodically, but the stories around these claims aren't always widely publicized. Most of the time it’s because investigators want to keep any information they have close to their vest as not to inspire unfounded panic. The following stories create a worldwide anthology of terrorists of all shapes and sizes putting or attempting to put dangerous substances in foods. 

Of course, if you think you’re a victim of this tampering, there are plenty of remedies to make sure you live to eat another salad bar — unless of course you’ve encountered a slayer who knows their way around a jug of cyanide. Hopefully you won't ever need to use this arsenal of knowledge and history, but in the case that you find yourself in a terrorist-food scenario, you'll be prepared.

  • Greek Eco-Terrorists Injected Hydrochloric Acid Into Grocery Store Items
    Photo: W. Oelen / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Greek Eco-Terrorists Injected Hydrochloric Acid Into Grocery Store Items

    Just before Christmas in 2017, a group of Greek eco-anarchists claimed to have injected hydrochloric acid into a series of popular grocery store items. In the group's press release about the event, they showed photographic evidence that they'd injected acid into Coca-Cola, meat rolls, and milk cartons before threatening to put the items back on supermarket shelves just in time for Christmas dinner. Grocery stores in Greece were forced to empty their shelves rather than run the risk of selling infected products. Along with the photos, the terrorists released a statement saying:

    These days, thousands and thousands of Christians will leave their couch to make the necessary shopping for their Christmas tables, to fill their empty lives with consumable rubbish covered in beautiful, glittering wrapping. The victims of this feast are the millions of living creatures that are [slain] to arrive at the tables of the living, drained to the last drop of blood to satisfy their palates.

  • Osho's Followers Infected Salad Bars In Oregon

    The Dalles is the largest city in Wasco County, Oregon, and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (also known as "Osho") wanted political control over the area. Osho's teachings were a hodgepodge of neo-spiritualism and Randian Objectivism. He was also obsessed with breeding out the "defects" of the human race. If his followers had succeeded in their plan to do harm to the population of Wasco County — in an attempt to keep them from voting in local elections — Osho may very well have been able to build a cult stronghold in the area. 

    In 1984, the followers of Osho tried to win two out of three seats on the Wasco County Circuit Court, and oust the then-sheriff by bussing in homeless people to vote in the county election. When that didn't work, the cult decided to put dangerous substances in food everywhere in the area so the citizens would be forced to stay home in bed rather than vote. The followers of Osho spread salmonella on produce in grocery stores, on doorknobs, and urinal handles in the county courthouse. When that didn't work they targeted 10 salad bars in the area which caused 751 people to fall ill

    After the incidents, Osho fled Oregon but was caught in North Carolina and deported after making a plea bargain. According to the FBI this is the only known agroterrorism event to occur in the US to this date. 

  • An Unknown Person Tampered Glico Moringa Products With Cyanide

    What began as a simple case in 1980s Japan quickly turned into mass panic after a abduction plan turned upside down. In 1984 two people took Katsuhisa Ezaki, the president of Glico, from his home in the middle of the night while his family cowered in their bedrooms. The duo attempted to ransom Ezaki off for one billion yen and 100 kilograms in gold bullion but Ezaki managed to escape. This didn't deter them, and they soon began to send taunting letters to the police and to Ezaki. 

    Referring to themselves as "The Monster with 21 Faces" the duo claimed that they'd laced all of Glico's candies (Pocky, Glico, Pretz, etc.) with cyanide, causing the company to pull all of its products from their distributors. Despite having a small group of suspects in the case, no one was ever sent to prison and the statute of limitations on all of the incidents ran out in 2000. 

  • The Arab Revolutionary Army Injected Mercury Into Oranges

    In 1978, in an effort to cause major havoc, Palestinian terrorists calling themselves the "Arab Revolutionary Army" injected mercury into oranges that originated in Israel. This orange injections happened at the beginning of the Lebanese Civil conflict while Israel was attempting to level the then-Palestinian stronghold. The oranges managed to infect multiple people from the Netherlands and West Germany. Specifically, five Dutch children were sent to the hospital with mercury consumption, and they all survived. 

    A few days after the hospitalizations, the Arab Revolutionary Army released a press statement to 18 nations saying, "It is not our aim to [slay] the population, but to sabotage the Israel economy which is based on suppression, discrimination [based on race] and colonial occupation."

  • The 1989 Chilean Grape Scare Rocked The FDA

    One of the biggest scandals to ever rock the FDA came in the form of two allegedly dangerous grapes in March of 1989. Allegedly, someone called the US embassy in Santiago, Chile, and claimed there was a shipment of grapes heading to the US which had been injected with cyanide. After allegedly discovering two cyanide-filled grapes, the FDA essentially shut down any imports from Chile while they investigated the situation with the FBI. During the investigation, other countries that imported fruit from Chile — including Japan and Canada — removed Chilean fruit from their stores. 

    Even though no one claimed responsibility for the two grapes, the FDA contended that this was a very real thing and not a hoax. But the Chilean government didn't agree. After suffering more than $400 million in losses due to temporary subsidies that the country provided to out-of-work farmers, the country performed its own investigation. They concluded that while the grapes were being tested in the US, they were injected with cyanide, either on purpose or on accident, and that the scare was being used to put the Chilean government in their place


  • Islamic Militants Attempted To Infect Rome's Water Supply
    Photo: DAVID ILIFF / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Islamic Militants Attempted To Infect Rome's Water Supply

    The early 2000s were a watershed moment for foreign terrorists. They were no longer tethered to the idea they had to be a part of a large insurgent group to cause havoc and began breaking off into smaller groups. In February of 2002, a newly formed terror cell, made up of a group of men from Morocco, attempted to flood Rome's water supply with cyanide. The terrorists were taken into custody in an early morning raid wherein Italian police discovered an 8.8lb bag of a cyanide compound along with maps of the city's pipelines.  

    The Italian government believed that one of the men caught had links to Osama Bin Laden via Essi Sami Ben Khemais, the leader of a terrorist group based in Milan. An interesting theory about this plot is that the Moroccans were meant to be in Italy to start preparations for a larger terrorist mission. If that's the case, they didn't get too far with those plans.