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Development of a Quantitative Food Supply Vulnerability Tool Exploring Public Health Risks

Award No.: 
In Progress
Principal Investigator: 
Emma Hartnett
PI Organization: 
Risk Sciences International, Inc.
The FSMA (2011) Section 106 requires that a vulnerability assessment of the food system be conducted, including biological, chemical, radiological, or other risk assessments. While defining vulnerability, DHS (2010) noted that a practical measure is the "likelihood that an attack is successful, if it is attempted." The success of an attack on the food system depends both on the malicious actor gaining access to the product to contaminate it and the ability of the hazard to persist in the product at high enough concentrations to cause health or economic impacts after distribution. This characteristic has traditionally been the domain of food safety, but it is equally relevant to food defense. To compare the vulnerability of food systems in terms of the degree to which agents added to food during production pose a risk of harm to the consumer requires the use of metrics that are indicators of the risk posed to consumers. The metrics must also be able to describe and compare the vulnerability of a production system for particular hazards. Examples include: 1) The probability that, given amount X is added prior to process Y in the production system, the risk to the consumer will be Z, and 2) Level of agent required to be added prior to each of the process steps in the food processing system to meet an ID50 for hazard X in the retail product or in the consumed product Several tools are available that explore vulnerability of the food supply. However, the questions these tools are designed to explore are mathematically different than the range of questions we propose to explore, and they cannot be readily applied to quantitatively explore vulnerability in terms of public health. The primary goal of the proposed work is to develop a web-based food supply chain vulnerability assessment tool for agents of concern that provides quantitative estimates that directly measure risk and vulnerability using public health-based metrics. This tool will be generic in nature, enabling application to multiple food hazard combinations and enabling exploration of the impact of risk mitigation measures upon the vulnerability of the system. The result will be a tool for both policy makers and the food industry to quantitatively explore vulnerability in directly comparable measures of public health risk. The results can be used directly to prioritize procedures to minimize the risks to public health from attacks on the food supply chain, thus enhancing the resiliency of the food supply chain.
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