Summary of Awards to Date

Traceability modeling in agricultural products for food safety.

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Oct. 1, 2009 - Sep. 30, 2013

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Scott A. Morris
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Many of the efforts in large scale food contamination have been directed at detection of outbreaks of food poisoning in the population and then remediation after an outbreak occurs. The food industry, which is usually quite careful about quality and safety, already has coding and recall management practices in place. These have historically worked very well after problems are detected, but assume that the producer is acting in good faith, that the inspection, notification and recall systems operate as they are supposed to, and that the product itself is not counterfeit. The implementation of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) can also provide optimal points for assaying for contaminants or inspection for disrupted seals or counterfeit goods. Increased registration and security requirements for food processing plants have reduced access to the production facilities and mitigated the threat of bioterrorism. Balancing this is the broad range of ingredients from multiple sources that may be shipped without tamper indication or verification systems, as well as reliance on Certificates of Analysis for ingredient safety rather than verifiable in-house testing. Many of these factors leave the system open to attack. Previous Work and Present Outlook: Previous work in the Packaging Laboratory has focused on productivity improvements, particularly for production and packaging operations that lack the necessary engineering infrastructure and expertise to do extensive modeling studies. The results of this have been good with initial implementation by a local food manufacturer having shown good results and being able to highlight production bottlenecks both in physical capacity and scheduling/queuing methods. While this has been useful work, the tools developed for this and some of the results obtained have highlighted the possibility of using similar modeling techniques to conduct studies on the effects of a distributed contaminant through a larger food production system and distribution system. This has the potential for assessing the effects of all types of contamination episodes, as well as similarly highlighting critical intervention points that might be used in the event of a large-scale contamination episode. The far-reaching effects of this are not only in the obvious use in determining the best means for getting contaminated products out of circulation, but in estimating an optimal means for minimizing the, sometimes-substantial economic impact to the producers, processors and retailers.