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The research safeguarding your next meal

College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Trevor Ames shakes hands with Secretary Vilsack on Friday, April 18, 2014 as University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler looks on.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security funds projects that defend against terrorism, natural disaster and other threats. But would you have guessed food defense makes the list?

Recently, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack paid a visit to the University of Minnesota’s National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD) – a Homeland Security Center of Excellence – to discuss the research safeguarding your next meal. Here’s what he learned about what the center is doing to defend the global food supply and why:

  • As the food supply becomes more globalized, the potential for economically motivated adulteration of food – or food fraud – increases. Fraud can result in a variety of public health and economic consequences including illness, trade losses and more. Some recent high-profile cases of food fraud include issues related to fish and olive oil fraud.
  • The University of Minnesota’s NCFPD works with academic, industry and government partners to research and address the vulnerability of the food system to intentional and catastrophic contamination.
  • Over the past three years, the Center has been successful in developing operational capabilities to protect the U.S. food system from fraud. The work is helping the nation avoid the ill effects of disingenuous food.
  • To build on existing NCFPD food-system-wide safety measures, the Center is now developing tools that map the food supply chain and identify potential food system disruptions. The Focused Integration of Data for Early Signals (FIDES) and the Criticality Spatial Analysis (CRISTAL) projects will protect the nation’s food supply better than ever before.

You can check out how the computer-based food defense tools are shaping up to look in the images below.

Tim Boyer demonstrates CRISTAL’s food supply protection capabilities to Secretary Vilsack and Dave Fredrickson, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Amy Kircher, NCFPD director, discuss how FIDES addresses food-system-wide safety.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration additionally provided funds to this research.

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