Fake honey, not-so-virgin olive oil and wood pulp in Parmesan cheese are just a few of the many food fraud instances known as economically motivated adulteration (EMA) that have made headlines in recent years. Some estimate food fraud costs the world economy $49 billion annually, and about 10 percent of the food we buy is likely adulterated.

To help combat food adulteration, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and Battelle have partnered to provide EMAlert, a secure, intuitive web-based software tool that allows food manufacturers to rapidly analyze and understand their individual, company-specific EMA vulnerabilities in the manufacturing process.

“The impact [of food fraud] on any particular company can range from minor economic damage to the potential loss of economic viability,” says Shannon Cooksey, vice president of science policy & regulatory affairs for GMA.  “GMA joined with Battelle, the world’s largest non-profit R&D organization, to develop a better way of prioritizing the actual risks to specific commodity supply chains at any time, so decision-makers can best apply their resources to the vulnerabilities of greatest importance.”

EMAlert also provides manufacturers with an effective resource to assist with meeting the requirements of FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule. “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,” says Ashley Kubatko, principal research scientist at Battelle.  By analyzing the attributes that contribute strongly to existing vulnerabilities, food safety and defense professionals may also identify alternative strategies, such as utilizing 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," says Joseph Scimeca,  vice president, global regulatory & scientific affairs at Cargill. “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 mitigation actions can be prioritized and pursued is essential to protecting both public health and brand reputation.”