Created by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and researchers at Battelle,
the world’s largest non-profit R&D organization, EMAlert™ is a secure and intuitive
web-based software tool that allows food manufacturers to rapidly assess their
vulnerabilities to food fraud – commonly called economically motivated adulteration
(EMA) – so companies can prioritize actions to mitigate possible threats. EMAlert™
gives companies a numerical vulnerability rating of EMA for a specific commodity
and side-to-side comparisons of multiple commodities with a single one click.
Why Was EMAlert™ created?
In today’s food supply network, the inherent risks of fraud are increasing due to such
factors as commodity price fluctuations, supply shortages, and the move to global supply
chains, which results in companies having less control of key processes. At a global
cost of $49 billion annually, EMA has long-term ramifications for company brands, an
industry’s viability, and in some cases, the economies of individual countries. EMAlert™
aids in compliance with new FSMA requirements and provides quantitative vulnerability
results, enabling industry to make informed decisions and develop mitigation strategies
to combat the threat of EMA.
What Exactly Is Food Fraud?
Food fraud in the context of food ingredients refers to the fraudulent addition of
non-authentic substances or removal or replacement of authentic substances without
the purchaser’s knowledge for economic gain of the seller. It is also referred to
as economic adulteration, economically motivated adulteration or food counterfeiting.
How does EMAlert™ work?
Applying the same methodologies Battelle now uses to predict terrorists’ tendencies
for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, EMAlert™ provides a quantitative estimate
of an organization’s vulnerability to economically motivated adulteration for each
commodity included in the analysis based on a combination of characteristic attributes
of each commodity and subject matter expert (SME) opinion as to how important those
attributes are in predicting which commodities are more likely to be adulterated for
economic reasons. Additionally, EMAlert™ is hosted on the Microsoft Azure Cloud, making
it possible for each company to have its own Azure SQL database accessible only through
an encrypted connection and protected through specialized security technologies.
How Big Is the EMA Problem for the Food Industry?
Currently, about 10 percent of the food we buy is likely adulterated and 7 percent
contains fraudulent ingredients. Specifically looking at foods, beverages and consumer
products, a study commissioned by GMA puts the cost of one major product adulteration
incident at between two percent and 15 percent of a company’s yearly revenues, translating
into a $60 million loss for a $500 million corporation. Based on these percentages,
GMA projects that economic adulteration and counterfeiting globally may cost industry
$10 billion to $15 billion a year.
Food Fraud Is Not a New Problem So What Has Changed and Why?
The EMA problem dates back over a century but reached a tipping point in 2007 when pet
food products adulterated with melamine, a plastic used chiefly for laminated coatings,
caused the deaths of thousands of dogs and cats in the U.S. This was quickly followed by
reports of consumers being sickened by melamine-contaminated milk products, which ultimately
affected more than 290,000 people worldwide, caused 51,900 hospitalizations, damaged more
than 30 global and local milk brands and cost food manufacturers and health systems over
$10 billion in recalled products, lost sales, and adverse health.
Recognizing that one economic adulteration incident can have global market consequences,
in 2010 GMA commissioned the first comprehensive study of EMA as it applies to foods,
beverages and other consumer products to identify the factors that influence economic
adulteration and counterfeiting. The study, conducted by A.T. Kearney concluded that besides
the profit motive of fraudsters, a number of new factors are contributing to food fraud
globally. These factors include the challenge of supplier integrity as global sourcing
shifts to developing markets; tighter economic conditions in a number of companies, which
causes suppliers squeezed by higher costs to surrender to temptation; brokers and suppliers
in developing markets having less knowledge or accountability for the products they handle;
and the ability of counterfeiters to remain anonymous an avoid detection when selling products
through the Internet.
Are Certain Foods and Beverages Better Candidates for EMA?
Currently, foods and ingredients commonly associated with food fraud include olive oil,
fish, honey, milk and dairy products, meat products, grain-based foods, fruit juices,
wine and alcoholic beverages, organic foods, spices, coffee, and tea, and some highly
Is EMA a Food Safety Issue?
The vast majority of food fraud incidents do not pose a public health risk. However,
improved food safety may result when EMA is mitigated.
In addition to representing a potential food safety risk, food fraud cheats consumers
into paying for foods and beverages that may be diluted, contain lower-quality ingredients,
or be mislabeled as a higher quality product altogether. These situations lead to consumer
distrust and negatively impact brand integrity and a company’s reputation.
How Do Food Companies Get Access to EMAlert™?
EMAlert™ is available to food and beverage companies and suppliers on a subscription
basis. Companies subscribe through at www.EMAlert.org/Purchase/ – where representatives
create an account and login and gain access to a Dashboard to run analyses. Battell
specialists maintain the website and operate a hotline (800-201-2011) to provide
Yes. You can request a free 7-day trial subscription of EMAlert™ by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where is the application hosted?
EMAlert™ is hosted in the Microsoft Azure Cloud. Microsoft has leveraged its decades-long
experience building enterprise software and running some of the world’s largest online
services to create a robust set of security technologies and practices. These help
ensure that Azure infrastructure is resilient to attack, safeguards user access to the
Azure environment, and helps keep customer data secure through encrypted communications
as well as threat management and mitigation practices, including regular penetration testing.
How is each company’s data kept separate?
Each company will have its own Azure SQL database, which is only accessible through an encrypted
connection string via the EMAlert™ application. The databases are gated behind a firewall by
Azure SQL Server. These measures ensure that company data are compartmentalized and that no company
data cross paths.
How do I customize the commodity list?
EMAlert™ comes off the shelf with 50 commodities. Companies are able to customize the commodity list
(add or remove commodities) for a customization fee through Battelle. Please email
email@example.com for more information.