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2 Databases Launched To Prevent Food Adulteration

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL—The University of Minnesota’s National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD), a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center of Excellence, is launching two databases to aid in mitigating economically motivated adulteration (EMA) of food, a $10 billion to $15 billion per year problem in the food industry. The databases will be available on for access initially by food regulators and the food industry.

While intentional and dangerous adulteration is relatively rare these days, it still occurs—mainly in imported products created by unscrupulous manufacturers. Unintentional adulteration also occurs due to environmental factors, packaging issues and other factors. And while it rarely causes serious food-safety issues, food fraud—often motivated by greed—also remains rampant.

The NCFPD EMA project explored past EMA incidents and also evaluated the US Pharmacopeia (USP) Food Chemicals Codex (FCC) ingredient monographs to develop two databases to help deter future events.

The EMA Incidents database contains documented incidents of EMA since 1980. Information for the database is compiled through literature and media searches to identify characteristics of EMA incidents in food products since 1980. The EMA Susceptibility Database contains evaluation of food ingredients for susceptibility to EMA. Information for the database was compiled through expert evaluations of the USP ingredient monographs for susceptibility to EMA.

“These two databases provide a systematic approach for identifying foods that are at greater risk of EMA to help agencies and industry mitigate that risk," said Shaun Kennedy, NCFPD director. “These are the first two of several tools NCFPD is developing to help reduce EMA and protect consumers."

Key findings from a report released in January 2013 by the US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) reveals the incidences of food adulteration or “food fraud" has risen a staggering 60% since 2010. Seafood, clouding agents and lemon juice were among the nearly 800 new records of “food fraud" added to the USP Food Fraud Database, which tracks information about foods that are vulnerable to fraudulent manipulation in today’s food supply.

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