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Food counterfeiting, contamination outpace international regulatory systems
Date:2/16/2009

CHICAGO Intentionally contaminated Chinese milk killed several children and sickened 300,000 more, causing concern around an increasingly connected world economy. Demand for inexpensive products virtually guarantees future repeats of food adulteration and counterfeiting from overseas, Michigan State University researchers said, as trade volumes overwhelm regulatory oversight.

Nobody can guarantee safe food, said Ewen Todd, but governments need to improve controls by promoting increased corporate responsibility, identifying vulnerabilities and assessing risks. Todd, a professor of advertising, public relations and retailing, conducted a symposium on the safety of imported food today at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting held in Chicago.

Increasing risk-based inspections and sampling; improving the detection of food system signals that indicate contamination; improving immediate response to contamination events; and improving risk communication all should be part of a more stringent regimen, Todd said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspects less than 2 percent of the food coming into the country, while 13 percent of America's food is imported, Todd said.

"It's a worldwide trend. First of all, transportation is easier, trade is easier," he said, while consumers are increasingly well traveled and have higher expectations. "We want stuff in the winter when we can't grow it."

Between the extremes of accidentally contaminated food and terrorism via intentional contamination lies the counterfeiter, seeking not to harm but to hide the act for profit. The melamine incidents are such examples. As an industrial chemical that mimics protein content in tests was added to milk and subsequently created kidney problems for children.

Product counterfeiting is the focus of a presentation by John Spink, an instructor at the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center and director
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Contact: Mark Fellows
mark.fellows@ur.msu.edu
517-819-5437
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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