Asian catfish illegally sold as grouper. Pomegranate juice cut with grape juice. Wood pulp in shredded Parmesan cheese. Unfortunately, instances such as these, commonly called economically motivated adulteration (EMA), are just a few examples of fraud the food industry strives to prevent every day.
To help combat this problem, the Washington, DC-based Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and Battelle have partnered to provide EMAlert, a secure and intuitive web-based software tool that allows food manufacturers to rapidly analyze and understand their individual, company-specific EMA vulnerabilities in the manufacturing process.
In today’s globally distributed, dynamic food supply network there are inherent risks to the integrity of the supply chain. It has been estimated that food fraud costs the world economy $49 billion annually, and it is believed that about 10 percent of all food purchased in developed countries is likely adulterated.
“The impact on any particular company can range from minor economic damage to the potential loss of economic viability of the organization,” said Shannon Cooksey, vice president of science policy and regulatory affairs for GMA. “We have joined with Battelle, the world’s largest non-profit R&D organization, to develop a better way of prioritizing the actual risks to specific commodity supply chains at any time, so that decision makers can best apply their resources to the vulnerabilities of greatest importance.”
EMAlert also gives manufacturers an effective resource to assist with meeting the requirements of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule. Compliance dates for some businesses begin in September 2016 and requires covered facilities to establish and implement a food safety system that includes an evaluation of hazards that may be introduced for economic gain.
“EMAlert works by providing quantitative estimates of an organization’s vulnerability to EMA for each commodity included in the analysis based on a combination of characteristic attributes and subject matter expert-based weightings,” said Ashley Kubatko, principal research scientist at Battelle. “The approach focuses on predicting fraudulent tendencies similar to approaches used by Battelle for the US Department of Homeland Security to predict terrorist tendencies and preferences.”
By analyzing the attributes that contribute strongly to existing vulnerabilities, food safety and defense professionals may also identify alternative strategies, such as identifying suppliers from a more favorable region of the world or investing in research to develop identity tests for targeted commodities.
“Food manufacturers place great value on the consumer’s trust in their brands,” said Dr. Joseph Scimeca, vice president of global regulatory and scientific affairs at Cargill. “An issue that compromises the integrity of the food supply chain cannot only lose consumer trust and induce fear among the general public, it can represent a threat to public health. Being able to rapidly assess and understand EMA vulnerabilities so that mitigation actions can be prioritized and pursued is essential to protecting both public health and brand reputation.”
About the GMA
Founded in 1908, the Grocery Manufacturers Association is a trade organization representing the world’s leading food, beverage and consumer products companies and allied partners. The industry it represents in the United States has facilities in 30,000 communities, generates $1 trillion in sales annually, contributes $415 billion in added value to the economy every year, and is the nation’s single largest manufacturing industry with 1.7 million workers on the payroll.
Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle, founded in 1929, is engaged in applying science and technology to solve problems. At major technology centers and national laboratories around the world, it conducts research and development, designs and manufactures products, and delivers critical services for commercial and government customers.