U center awarded grant

The National Center for Food Protection and Defense was given $20 million.

by Alex Holmquist

The University of MinnesotaâÄôs National Center for Food Protection and Defense has been awarded a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The center was established in 2004 to reduce the vulnerability of the nationâÄôs food supply to attack by intentional contamination. Attacks could result from domestic or international terrorism, said Frank Busta, senior science adviser and director emeritus of the center. The center has researched all facets of the food supply chain and has worked to find better ways to detect and remove contamination from the nationâÄôs food supply, Busta said. âÄúThere are a number of everyday components we take for granted that are vulnerable to attack,âÄù he said. The grant, which will be distributed over the next six years, will give the center long-term stability. Busta said the center, which has been funded by grants since it opened, is grateful for the long-term grant because they donâÄôt have to worry about constantly writing proposals for funding. âÄú[The grant] permits us to do some significant work that otherwise would not have been done,âÄù Busta said. In its first six years of operation, the center has completed more than 60 projects. It has conducted studies on various subjects, including the influence of media on consumer attitudes toward food safety and communication during a crisis. Busta said the center has also researched the economically motivated adulteration of food, such as the melamine contamination of pet food in the United States and in dairy products in China âÄî a widely publicized recent issue. Ryan Newkirk, a third-year doctoral student in the School of Public Health, has been working on a project for the center to assess terrorism risks to the nationâÄôs food system. âÄúThe NCFPD is taking one of the lead roles in the world in doing this food system research,âÄù Newkirk said. âÄúItâÄôs an outstanding organization.âÄù He said the project heâÄôs working on aims to develop new methodologies to reduce the vulnerability of the nationâÄôs food supply to terrorist attacks. âÄúThe food system is really complex and an important critical infrastructure for the country,âÄù Newkirk said. âÄúAnything that we can do to reduce terrorism risk is incredibly important.âÄù