GMA Launches Tool to Fight Food Fraud

From wood pulp in shredded Parmesan cheese and melamine in baby formula and pet food, to Asian catfish sold as grouper and pomegranate juice cut with grape juice, incidents of economically motivated adulteration (EMA) are grabbing headlines and eroding consumer confidence.

To help combat the issue, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and Battelle have teamed up to launch a new tool to fight food fraud.

Dubbed EMAlert, the web-based software tool enables food manufacturers to detect EMA threats by rapidly analyzing and understanding their individual, company-specific vulnerabilities in the manufacturing process.

“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, GMA's VP of science policy and regulatory affairs. GMA joined with Battelle, a global nonprofit 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," Cooksey explained.

Importantly, EMAlert also provides manufacturers with an effective resource to assist with meeting the requirements of the FDA’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," added Ashley Kubatko, principal research scientist at Battelle. “The approach focuses on predicting fraudulent tendencies similar to approaches used by Battelle for the U.S. 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 Joseph Scimeca, Cargill's VP of global regulatory and scientific affairs. "An issue that compromises the integrity of the food supply chain cannot only lose consumer trust and induce fear amongst 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."

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