Emerging risks monitored in complex global food system

Published on: Jul 20, 2013

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security created the National Center for Food Protection & Defense (NCFPD) that had an initial focus on potential acts of terrorism involving the food industry. However, that focus has broadened to include any intentional food contamination as well as economically motivated adulteration (EMA), explained acting center director Dr. Amy Kircher in a food safety session at the 2013 AVMA annual convention in Chicago, Ill. Kircher said her center is constantly monitoring emerging risks in a increasingly complex food system.

She defined a few terms that seem similar but are different:

* Food security relates to supply sufficiency;

* Food safety relates to reliability of the food system;

* Food defense relates to the resiliency of the food system;

* Food quality relates to the desirability of food, and

* Food protection relates to everything.

She further explained that food safety is a system failure involving known agents and is a more likely event, while food defense is a system attack with unexpected agents and is rather unlikely. Kircher said these emering risks are concerns because there can be significant public health consequences, widespread fear and devastating economic impacts.

 

A new concern that NCFPD has been monitoring is EMA, and the magnitude of these events is only known by those doing the adulterating. EMA is sometimes known as "food fraud" and can include such things as dilution, substitution, artificially increasing labeled weight, disguising country of origin, port shopping, theft and counterfeiting. Kircher said the annual food industry impact of EMA is estimated to be $10 billion to $15 billion per year and that up to 10% of food products at retail are adulterated.