Food Defense

Research Areas

Agent Behavior

Cyber Security in Food and Agriculture

Event Modeling

Information Sharing

Risk Analysis

Supply Chain Security

About Us

University of Minnesota–Twin Cities
R285 LES Bldg
St. Paul, MN  55108
Tel:  612-624-2458

FPDI Factsheet



Amy Kircher, DrPH, Director
Jennifer van de Ligt, PhD, Associate Director


Project Search

Food Protection & Defense Institute


The Food Protection and Defense Institute (FPDI) is a multidisciplinary, action-oriented research consortium united to help make the nation's food system less vulnerable to a biological or chemical attack. Through research and education, the Institute looks to safeguard the food system comprehensively, from farm to table, to reduce the potential for contamination at any point along the food supply chain and a catastrophic attack on public health and the economy.

Center Activity

Project Spotlights
Economically Motivated Adulteration (EMA)

EMA, also known as food fraud, is the intentional adulteration of food for economic gain. FPDI considers the EMA of food to include any situation where food that is not up to standards is knowingly sold to a food company or consumer.  FPDI EMA research enhances our understanding of prior EMA events and contributes to the understanding of future risk. Vulnerability of food to EMA depends on a number of factors such as the known history of incidents, the ability to evade analytical methods, unexpected supply chain shifts, and economic factors. Future EMA work will merge a variety of data sources to put EMA risk in context and elicit early warning of potential EMA incidents. Current EMA projects include:

The online, searchable EMA Incidents Database catalogs incidents of EMA, sabatoge, and terrorism since 1980 and identifies their characteristics. It is available online at

The EMA Susceptibility Database provides evaluations of ingredients that are susceptible to adulteration. It is available online at

FPDI has developed a methodology to monitor food imports for anomalies that could signal an increased risk for EMA.

FPDI is building five case studies of EMA-prone food products in order to evaluate various data sources to understand anomalies in the food supply chains.


Criticality Spatial Analysis (CRISTAL)

CRISTAL is FPDI’s next-generation web-based software being developed to increase the safety and reliability of the global food system.  It will enable private food companies and the government to share and analyze complex food system structures, identify critical food facilities, and compare food systems to better allocate scarce security and risk mitigation resources.  CRISTAL will help food system personnel understand their risks so they can take action to mitigate catastrophic supply-chain failures and reduce the duration of widespread food-borne illnesses.



FoodSHIELD ( is a web-based system for communication, coordination, and training among a wide range of federal, state and local government regulatory agencies and laboratories that are working to protect, regulate and defend food and agriculture systems. FoodSHIELD provides web-based tools that enhance threat prevention and response, risk management, communication, and asset coordination. It serves as a one-stop location for sharing information and educational resources.

Risk Mitigation and Food Supply Chain Design and Control

FPDI researchers are developing improved risk analysis approaches for U.S. food products that use imported ingredients. Research efforts include creating new supply-chain design and sequential control strategies that seek to ensure a high level of system productivity while mitigating the risk posed by intentional attacks by adversaries.

2015/16 Projects

Virtual Integrated Real-Time User AnaLytics (VIRTUAL) Tool
Tejas Bhatt, Institute of Food Technologists
Project dates:  7/2014 – 6/2016
Research area:  Supply Chain Security

Strengthened Food and Agricultural Sector Defense Posture through Improved Private Sector Information Sharing
Jennifer Li, National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)
Project dates:  7/2014 – 6/2016
Research area:  Information Sharing

Risk Analysis and Mitigation for Threats Posed by Adaptive Intelligent Adversaries to Food Supply Chains
Alan Erera, Georgia Institute of Technology
Project dates:  7/2010 – 6/2016
Research area:  Supply Chain Security

Transition of Curriculum Guide into Online Training
Debra Freedman
Project dates:  7/2015-6/2016
Research area:  Transition/Education

Development of a Quantitative Food Supply Vulnerability Tool Exploring Public Health Risks
Emma Hartnett, Risk Sciences International
Project dates:  7/2014 – 6/2016
Research area:  Risk Analysis

E2E:  CRISTAL (CRIticality SpaTial AnaLysis)
Amy Kircher, University of Minnesota
Project Dates:  7/2012 – 6/2016
Research area:  Supply Chain Security

Commercialization for Focused Integration of Data for Early Signals (FIDES)
Amy Kircher, University of Minnesota
Project Dates:  7/2015 – 6/2016
Research area:  Transition/Risk Analysis

World Fact Book of Food
Amy Kircher, University of Minnesota
Project Dates:  7/2015 – 6/2016
Research area:  Transition/Information Sharing

Food defense database in support of federal and industry food defense efforts
John Larkin, University of Minnesota
Project Dates:  7/2015 – 6/2016
Research area:  Risk Analysis

FPDI Policy Summit
John Larkin, University of Minnesota
Project Dates:  7/2015 – 6/2016
Research area:  Transition/Information Sharing

Agents Detection Workshop
John Larkin, University of Minnesota
Project Dates:  11/2014 – 6/2016
Research area: Agent Detection

Vulnerability Assessment of Critical Food Additives
Margaret Rush, Gryphon Scientific
Project dates:  7/2014 – 6/2016
Research area:  Risk Analysis

Standoff Raman Detection of Food Contamination
Anup Sharma, Alabama A&M University
Project dates:  7/2014 – 6/2016
Research area:  Agent Detection

Application of OIE Risk Analysis Framework to Formal and Informal Trade of Wildlife: A Framework for Assessing Threats to U.S. National Food Security
Dominic Travis, University of Minnesota
Project dates:  7/2014 – 6/2016
Research area:  Risk Analysis

Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response: Assessing the Legal Framework for Interagency Sharing of Information
Kerry Wyss, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO)
Project dates:  7/2014 – 6/2016
Research area:  Information Sharing


Hong H, Won S., Hannah M. Pezzi, Andrea R. Schuster, Scott M. Berry, Kyung E. Sung, and David J. Beebe. “Development of a Highly Sensitive Cell-Based Assay for Detecting Botulinum Neurotoxin Type A through Neural Culture Media Optimization.” Journal of Biomolecular Screening 21, no. 1(2016): 65-73. doi:10.1177/1087057115608103

Gao S, Glasser J, and He L. “A Filter-Based Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopic Assay for Rapid Detection of Chemical Contaminants.” Journal of Visualized Experiments 108 (2016). doi:10.3791/53791

Bergeron J, Mann E, Farnham M, Kennedy S, Everstine K, Prasarnphanich O, Smith K, Karesh W, Travis D, Kircher A. “Rapid-response risk evaluation of Ebola spread via the food system.” IBM Journal of Research and Development 60, 5/6(2016): 3:1-3:12. doi: 10.1147/JRD.2016.2585778



Chang, Yanling, Alan Erera, and Chelsea White III. “A Leader–follower Partially Observed, Multiobjective Markov Game.” Annals of Operations Research 235, no. 1(2015): 103–28. doi: 10.1007/s10479-015-1935-0.

Chang, Yanling, Alan Erera, and Chelsea White III. “Value of Information for a Leader–follower Partially Observed Markov Game .” Annals of Operations Research 235, no. 1(2015): 129–53. doi: 10.1007/s10479-015-1905-6.

Dodge, Anthony, Kelvin Carrasquillo, Luis Rivera, Lei Xu, Lawernce P Wackett, and Michael J Sadowsky. “Rapid Method Using Two Microbial Enzymes for Detection of L-Abrine in Food as a Marker for the Toxic Protein Abrin.” Applied and Environmental Microbioology 81, no. 5(2015): 1610–15. doi:10.1128/AEM.03492-1

Jackson, Lauren S, Odbert A Triplett, and William H Tolleson. “Influence of Yogurt Fermentation and Refrigerated Storage on the Stability of Protein Toxin Contaminants.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 80, June(2015): 101–7. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2015.03.003.

Kassu, Aschalew, Carlton Farley III, Anup Sharma, Wonkyu Kim and Junpeng Guo. “Effect of Pore Size and Film Thickness on Gold-Coated Nanoporous Anodic Aluminum Oxide Substrates for Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering Sensor.” Sensors 15, no. 12(2015): 29924–37. doi:10.3390/s151229778.

Mann, Erin, Stephen Streng, and Justin Bergeron, Amy Kircher. “A Review of the Role of Food and the Food System in the Transmission and Spread of Ebolavirus.” PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 9, no. 12(2015).  doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0004160.

Wu, Xiudong, Guangyun Lin, Xuezhen Huang , William H Tepp, Eric Johnson, and Hongrui Jiang. “Microfluidic Detection of Botulinum Neurotoxin Type a Utilizing Polyacrylamide Hydrogels with SNAP-25 Peptide Crosslinke.” IEEE Sensors Journal 15, no. 2(2015): 1091–97. doi:10.1109/JSEN.2014.2360333.


Cho, Seunghee, Ke Shi, Jennifer L Seffernick, Anthony G Dodge, Lawrence P Wackett, and Hideki Aihara. “Cyanuric Acid Hydrolase from Azorhizobium Caulinodans ORS 571: Crystal Structure and Insights into a New Class of Ser-Lys Dyad Proteins.” PLOS ONE 9, no. 6(2014): e93349. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0099349.

Easter Strayer, Sarah, Karen Everstine, and Shaun Kennedy. “Economically Motivated Adulteration of Honey: Quality Control Vulnerabilities in the International Honey Market.” Food Protection Trends 34, no. 1(2014): 8–14.

Fredrickson, Neal. “Food Security: Food Defense and Biosecurity.” In Encyclopedia of Agriculture and Food Systems, edited by Neal Van Alfen, 311–23. San Diego: Elsevier, 2014.

Kircher, Amy. “Call for Help - Defending the Food Supply.” DomPrep Journal 10, no. 1(2014): 5–6.    

Littlefield, Robert S, Kimberly Beauchamp, Derek Lane, Deanna D Sellnow, Timothy L Sellnow, Steven Venette, and Bethany Wilson. “Instructional Crisis Communication:  Connecting Ethnicity and Sex in the  Assessment of Receiver-Oriented Message Effectiveness .” Jms Journal  of Management and Strate 5, no. 3(2014): 16–23.

Sellnow, Deborah D, and Timothy L Sellnow. “The Challenge of Exemplification in Crisis Communication.” Journal of Applied Communications 98, no. 2(2014): 53–64.


Student Opportunities at FPDI

Based on cutting-edge research and current best practices, the Food Protection and Defense Institute’s education agenda offers curriculum innovation, learning opportunities, and workforce training to:

     -  Increase awareness of food defense 
     -  Enhance the skill set of our current workforce
     -  Train the next generation of food defense workers 

University of Minnesota Courses in Food Defense and Related Topics

Food Defense: Prepare, Respond, Recover
University of Minnesota VMED 5920, 3 credits, In-Person
This course is intended to provide a foundation for students to understand the basic principles of preparedness and emergency response that are utilized to plan for, respond to, and recover from a food disaster.  Taught during Spring Semester.

Seminar in Food Protection and Defense
University of Minnesota VMED 5921, 1 credit, Hybrid Online and In-Person
Explore current issues and research activities impacting global food defense. Tap into NCFPD’s monthly webinar series to learn from leading experts from the food industry, governmental agencies, and research institutions. The course also features an engaging in-person component using the flipped classroom model. Taught during Fall Semester.

Emergency Preparedness: A Public Health Perspective
University of Minnesota PUBH 5231, 2 credits, Online 
Gain awareness of preparing for and responding to all-hazard events—both natural and man-made. This course provides a wide-ranging introduction to the public health’s core competencies. Students will look at the purpose, history, organizations, functions, tools, and activities used in the field. Taught during Fall and Spring Semesters.

Workforce Certification Courses

Food Defense Certification Course
University of Minnesota
This course is intended to provide information concerning the following topics specific to industry workforce needs: Food Defense Introduction and Global Importance; Threats to the Food System and Vulnerability Assessments; Policy and Regulation; Recovery and Consequence Management; Surveillance and Detection; Customized Food Defense Plans. Taught at various times throughout the year.

Workforce Development Grant Students

The Food Protection and Defense Institute is currently funding two graduate students, Justina Schiroo and Nicole Lane, through Department of Homeland Security Scholarships. These two students are focused on studying food defense and related fields. Both Justina and Nicole receive tuition assistance, living stipend, and travel expenses to complete research in food defense, and to attend food defense and homeland security related conferences and experiential learning opportunities.

Contact Debra Freedman ( or 612-624-2459) for more information.

Technology Transition
Engage to Excel Project 2012-14
CRISTAL:  Criticality Spatial Analysis

Food and agriculture comprise a systems-based infrastructure that contains a complex network of individual factories and processes. There are many threats that could cripple our fragile food system (e.g., hurricanes, terrorists, floods, earthquakes).  Methods to collect spatial data (e.g., coordinates of food facilities) to identify, document, and assess the food system’s components are needed to prevent naturally occurring and anthropogenic disasters from disrupting the food system. 

Spatial data can be used to identify critical facilities in the food system, identify critical transportation segments, identify interdependent infrastructures (e.g., water and power facilities), objectively quantify risks to the food system at multiple scales, and dramatically increase the speed of food traceability.  With these types of analyses the government can mitigate threats to the food system in advance, businesses can reduce risks to their enterprise, and society can have a safer and more reliable food system.

During the first year of the Engage to Excel (E2E) project, the Food Protection and Defense Institute (FPDI) successfully built a prototype named CRISTAL to: 1) collect spatial data of food systems; 2) improve food system documentation; 3) objectively quantify risks to the documented food systems; and, 4) link disparately owned food facilities and systems.  In the second year of the E2E project, we seek to refine methods developed in CRISTAL, develop new methods of analysis in CRISTAL, and test CRISTAL with several private food companies.

Research Partners

Fort Valley State University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Illinois Institute of Technology
Institute of Food Technologists
International Food Information Council (IFIC)
Kansas State University
New Mexico Consortium
New Mexico State University
North Carolina A&T
North Dakota State University
Risk Sciences International, Canada
Rutgers University
Tuskegee University
United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP)
Universidad del Este-Carolina
University of Guelph, Ontario
University of Kentucky
University of Minnesota
University of Southern Mississippi
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Virginia State University
Virginia Union University

Federal Partners

Department of Homeland Security
-Office of Health Affairs
-Office of Infrastructure Protection
-Science and Technology Directorate
-Customs and Border Protection

Department of Agriculture
-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
-Food Safety and Inspection Service
-Foreign Agriculture Service

Food and Drug Administration
-Office of Regulatory Affairs
-Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition