Center develops food tracking tools

Researchers at the Homeland Security Department’s National Center for Food Protection and Defense are developing two new computer applications to track the spread of food-borne illnesses and contamination and to assess the vulnerability of the food supply chain.

The DHS Center of Excellence at the University of Minnesota is collaborating with major food manufacturers and suppliers on the Consequence Management System, a computer model that simulates the spread of food illnesses or poisoning, either accidental or intentional, according to a news release. The system was developed by BT Safety of Eden Prairie, Minn.

The center has set up information-sharing arrangements with a number of major food manufacturers and processors to track specific shipments of food. That data is fed into the consequence management computer model to predict, track and react to contamination incidents, and to identify the origin of the contamination.

“We have a lot of close collaboration with industry,” Frank Busta, senior science adviser at the center, said in the release. “They’ve volunteered their information and assistance to both protect the public and avoid the economic consequences of an outbreak.”

Also in development is the Food and Agriculture Sector Criticality Assessment Tool, now in the design and testing phase. The tool identifies the critical elements and vulnerabilities of the food and agriculture supply chain. It was developed in partnership with the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense based at Texas A&M University.

The assessment tool has been distributed to more than 30 state agencies for field testing, the news release said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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