Safeguarding our food supply chain with digital surveillance

May 09, 2016

Epidemico is a fierce leader in mining unconventional data sources to detect disease outbreak and drug safety issues, which can impact the lives of thousands, even millions of people. A public health concern of similar magnitude is the safety of our food supply chain. Where are my food products from? Who made them? How do I know if they are safe for consumption? These are all fair and common questions from consumers. We collect food safety related information hoping to understand the risks of our food supply chain earlier on to communicate to regulators and the public.

To illustrate, China is one of the world's largest food procurement centers. Tens of thousands of Chinese vendors claim to be in compliance with the HACCP (Hazard analysis critical control point) standard required by U.S. FDA for exporting raw or processed food products to the States. Contradictory to these claims, China has been involved in some of the worst known food safety scandals, showing the lack of food safety regulation enforcement throughout its food supply chain.

Heat map showing where most issues were identified

What can we do about this lack of transparency? Epidemico collects and analyzes Chinese news articles from Google News and Baidu related to food safety, complemented by inspection reports released by Chinese regulators, hoping to help our clients understand the major food supply chain risk in China and its impact on U.S. public health. From April 1, 2015 to November 30, 2015, our in-house algorithm automatically identified over 1,400 articles related to new food safety events. From these articles, we found bacterial and chemical contaminations were the most common issues. Beverages, bakery wares, fruits, and vegetables are most likely to be contaminated or adulterated. Chinese provinces with the highest number of food safety concerns were Shandong Province, Beijing, and Guangdong Province.

Time series distribution showing the change in volume of food safety related events over time (4/1/15 - 11/30/15)

Epidemico will continue to work with U.S. regulators to help safeguard our fragile food supply chain. Contact if you are interested in learning more!