Univ. of Minnesota launches databases to prevent food adulteration

February 6, 2013

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 $10–15 billion per year problem in the food industry. The databases will be available on www.foodshield.org for access initially by food regulators and the food industry.

EMA is the intentional addition of inferior or foreign substances to a food for economic gain, or the intentional mislabeling of food products. While usually harmless, EMA events have resulted in serious public health consequences, and they illustrate vulnerabilities in regulatory and quality assurance systems that could be exploited for intentional harm.

“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.”

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

  • EMA Incidents Database: Documents incidents of EMA since 1980. Information for this database is compiled through literature and media searches to identify characteristics of EMA incidents in food products since 1980.
  • EMA Susceptibility Database: Evaluation of food ingredients for susceptibility to EMA. Information for this database was compiled through expert evaluations of the USP ingredient monographs for susceptibility to EMA.

Press release