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Can this tool predict and prevent food fraud before people get sick?

While 2012 marked the introduction of watershed federal food-safety reforms started by the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011; the United States’ contaminated food problem still remains somewhat unresolved.

Each year, roughly one in six Americans contracts a foodborne illness, and countless more consume foods that aren’t exactly what their packaging claims – honey, olive oil, maple syrup and fish are all frequent targets of food fraud …

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Amy Kircher to lead U of M food safety center

The National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD), a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence at the University of Minnesota, celebrates the appointment of Amy Kircher, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., to director this week.

As director, Kircher will lead the NCFPD’s research, education and outreach efforts focused on addressing the vulnerability of the food system from intentional or catastrophic contamination. During her tenure, Kircher will seek to transition the center’s research and technology to the private sector to protect the food system as well as create a network of global capabilities.

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In search of the source: the latest cyclospora outbreak

Cyclospora has captured national headlines this summer; attention prompted in part by public health experts who have questioned the methodology used to identify the culprit behind our country’s latest outbreak of foodborne illness.

When outbreaks of infection credited to cyclospora originally occurred in Iowa and Nebraska, public health officials attributed the infections to contaminated salad mixes packaged by Taylor Farms de Mexico. When that company stopped producing and shipping the product in early August, many assumed the infections would stop shortly afterward.

Yet two weeks later the number of documented infections has continued to climb.

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New proposed rules for imported food

Food today is sourced from all over the world. Grapes from Chile, hazelnuts from Oregon, honey from China, you name it – what fills your stomach today often comes from miles away.

The many different food safety standards and complex supply chains can make it challenging to identify and prevent food-related problems. Threats stem from Mother Nature and food system failure from intentional contamination for economic, criminal or terrorist reasons.

To combat the risks from imported food, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed two new rules as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) signed by President Barack Obama in 2011. These rules aim to raise the food safety standards on imported foods and shift policies from reactive to more proactive solutions.

But why propose such rules now? Why hasn’t something similar been in place all along?

National Center for Food Protection and Defense experts Amy Kircher and John T. Hoffman share.

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Cocoa butter equivalent: The future of chocolate?

When demand for a commodity outstrips its supply, manufacturers must look for alternative ingredients to substitute into their products in order to maintain profit margins. Such has been the case in the chocolate industry during recent times.

The global cocoa deficit this year is expected to widen to 47,000 metric tons as diseases and replacement crops are leading to meager cocoa yields in Indonesia, Asia’s primary cocoa producing country.

Although there are reportedly sufficient market stocks for the remainder of the year, the increasing gap between global appetite and chocolate resources is causing cocoa price projections to continue to rise.

Fear not, chocolate lovers, for there’s a new ingredient in town. While cocoa butter has historically been preferred over cocoa butter equivalent (CBE) as a fat source in chocolate products, in the coming years the balance is projected to shift in favor of CBEs.

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In the News: U of M responds to cyclospora outbreak

There’s a new stomach bug spreading in the United States and its got health officials scrambling to find its source. Cyclospora, a parasite typically found in the tropics, has infected 321 people in 14 different states, including one person in Minnesota. Craig Hedberg, Ph.D., an expert in foodborne illnesses in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, spoke to KSTP about the outbreak…

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