Food & Agricultural Safety Contaminated food and agricultural products have potentially catastrophic consequences for the nation’s economy and public health. Gryphon helps state and federal governments design systems to protect the food and agricultural sectors against natural and intentional disease outbreaks as well as chemical and radiological contaminants.
Evaluating Systems for Food and Agricultural Safety and Security
Gryphon Scientific was chosen by the Multi-State Partnership for Security in Agriculture to review and evaluate existing tools for surveillance systems that protect the food and agricultural sectors against natural and intentional disease outbreaks and chemical contamination. In this project, our team then conducted interviews with stakeholders in each of the 12 Partnership states to identify priorities and needs relative to agriculture and food surveillance. To evaluate existing systems, Gryphon developed models of incidents that compromise the safety of human food, animal feed, animal health, and plant health. Combining these analyses enabled us to assess where gaps existed in this field and then to design requirements for a new system that filled those gaps. Importantly, the project concluded with the setting of requirements for three notional, cost-effective systems to meet the Partnership’s needs and to provide early warning for food and agricultural threats.
Site-Specific Biosafety and Biosecurity Mitigation Risk Assessment
For a project for the Department of Homeland Security, Office of National Laboratories, Gryphon Scientific carried out a site-specific risk assessment for the high containment laboratory to be built in Manhattan, KS that will replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. The study focused on identifying the inherent risks of performing research on pathogens of agricultural importance in Manhattan, KS. Specifically, Gryphon Scientific modeled the impacts and mitigations measures of accidental or deliberate releases of either foot and mouth disease (FMD) or Rift Valley fever virus (RVF). Gryphon Scientific used the North American Animal Disease Spread Model (NAADSM) with high-fidelity animal population data to simulate FMD outbreaks and test various mitigation strategies. For RVF, Gryphon Scientific developed a novel RVF model using Vensim software to simulate RVF outbreaks and related control measures. In addition, Gryphon Scientific assessed Best Practices and Mitigation Plans from similar high containment animal research facilities to inform NBAF design and planning. Gryphon was responsible for performing a detailed literature search and analysis to determine the susceptible vector and host populations, decay rates of the viruses in aerosols, pathogenicity, at-risk human and animal populations, and rate of replication and spread of these agriculturally and economically-significant pathogens. These data were used to construct models of the spread and resulting casualties (both human and livestock) in case of a viral release. This project involved consultation with subject matter experts in veterinary medicine, epidemiology, virology (RVF and FMD pathogenesis and replication). This work has led Gryphon to make contact with the leaders in FMD and RVF research and to gather data and background information on virus biology.
Setting Requirements for Intentional Food Contamination Detection
Gryphon Scientific set requirements for a system that detects chemical and biological contamination in the food supply. We determined both qualitative and quantitative system characteristics that would be required in order to have a system that addresses the vulnerability but meets the needs and limitations of a diverse set of government and private sector stakeholders. This project required us to research bacteria, viruses, toxins and chemicals to determine whether they can be used to contaminate the food supply. For each of more than 100 chemicals and more than 30 biothreat agents and food-borne pathogens, we identified and assessed the stability, infectivity, morbidity/mortality, and ease of in vitro cultivation. These data were used to construct models of quantity of food contaminated, amount of contaminant in the food, and predicted numbers of casualties. The project report was informed not only by literature-based research, but also by extensive consultation with subject matter experts and industry and government stakeholders. Overall, approximately 200 stakeholders were interviewed that represented all sectors of the food industry, including production, transportation, retail and quick serve restaurants. A stakeholder working group consisting of leaders in each of these fields was assembled and meetings held throughout the duration of the project to gain input and guide development of the final recommendations.
Assessing the Vulnerability of the Food Supply to Attack
In this project for the Department of Homeland Security, we investigated the vulnerability of the food supply to attacks using Y. pestis and F. tularensis. We assessed the ability of sub-state actors to acquire these agents from the environment and ensure that the isolates obtained were pathogenic. We identified the characteristics of food items that would be hospitable to these bacteria, including parameters such as pH, water activity, salinity and temperature of storage and processing. We then investigated which food items with these characteristics are distributed widely enough to inflict mass casualties if contaminated. Following this data collection effort, we modeled the casualties that would result from contamination of these food items with these two agents and then the benefit that early detection would have on limiting the casualties.