As it grapples with ways to secure the nation's food supply chain, the Department of Homeland Security has enlisted academia in the fight. It recently awarded several universities a $15 million grant to help it develop ways to protect the nation's food supply from accidental or deliberate contamination or terrorist attack One of the beneficiaries is Michigan State University, where researchers specializing in food safety, packaging and supply chain management will receive about $1 million over three years to fund efforts to improve what's known as agro-security. MSU will partner with North Dakota State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Minnesota, which has been designated one of three Homeland Security Centers of Excellence.
"MSU is in a … unique position and we bring a lot to the table," says Edward Mather, deputy director of the MSU-based National Food Safety & Toxicology Center. "Not only do we have strong programs in food safety, but we have nationally renowned expertise in fields such as supply chain management, diagnostics, packaging and criminal justice." For example, one of those experts, David Closs, a professor in MSU's Department of Supply Chain Management, is working on a diagnostic tool to tell suppliers what they should do to enhance security. "The supply chain management research will help identify those areas most vulnerable and in need of diagnostic application and mitigation…," Closs said in a statement.
And yes, RFID will come into play here too. MSU is also looking into how RFID tags can be used to increase food supply chain security.