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Explore this issueDecember/January 2015
The food supply is becoming increasingly globalized and U.S. consumers eat imported foods or ingredients on a daily basis. More than 15 percent of the foods we eat in the U.S. are imported, with as much as 80 percent of seafood products coming from other countries. Many food ingredients, such as spices, are sourced almost exclusively from other countries. The FDA estimates that importation of regulated products next year will be triple that from 2007. Globalization of the food supply increases the length and complexity of supply chains, and arguably increases the opportunity for both foodborne illness and economically-motivated adulteration (EMA). Of the more than 450,000 food and feed facilities registered with FDA, more than 285,000 are foreign facilities. There is a large gap in inspection coverage among foreign facilities and domestic facilities. Between 2001 and 2007, only 1 percent of foreign food firms were inspected by FDA. The agency has proposed a number of programs aimed at addressing the challenges posed by imported food products and ingredients. However, there is still some debate about how to approach the problem of EMA.
Types of EMA
Various groups have defined EMA, or food fraud, including the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, or GMA. The bottom line is that EMA involves misrepresentation of the true nature of a food product or ingredient, with the goal of the economic gain of the seller. The National Center for Food Protection and Defense at the University of Minnesota has identified the following eight types of EMA.