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Food Biosecurity: Modeling the Health, Economic, and Social, and Psychological Consequences of Intentional and Unintentional Food Contamination


<OL> <LI> Develop a multi-disciplinary understanding of the basis for public awareness, perceptions and responses to intentional and unintentional food contamination. <LI> Assess Information Needs of Key Stakeholders. <LI> Explore the impacts of media coverage of food contamination on consumer understanding and actions. <LI> Understand lay mental models of food contamination and use these to identify common knowledge and attitudes that can be built upon to rapidly communicate with the public and identify common misconceptions or gaps in knowledge and awareness that need to be addressed in public outreach efforts. <LI> Enhance efforts to rapidly detect contamination incidents through an improvement in the speed and accuracy of outbreak investigations and an improved ability to communicate about these processes and their results. <LI> Enhance efforts to rapidly manage contamination incidents through the reduction of uncertainty in trace back and recall processes and an improved ability to communicate about these processes and their results. <LI> Enhance the ability of the USDA to develop rapid communications in response to contamination events. <LI> Identify and measure the economic costs associated with incidents that threaten or appear to threaten food safety. <LI> Identify the criteria sought by terrorists to maximize economic damage from an agroterrorist attack, and understand the relationships between terrorist activities, threats and actions, and consumer behavior, attitudes and risk perceptions. <LI> Develop the next generation of researchers of food and biosecurity issues. <LI> Disseminate useful and targeted information on food biosecurity and consumer knowledge, perceptions, attitudes and likely responses toward threats or breaches in food safety to a diverse array of end users.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Because of the huge economic, health and social welfare costs associated with food contamination, the food supply presents a tempting target for terrorists who want to destabilize the American economy. It is designed to improve food biosecurity through enhanced threat prevention and response, risk management and communication, and public education efforts through an improved ability to anticipate, understand, manage and communicate about the economic, social and psychological consequences of food contamination brought about through a variety of intentional and unintentional means.

APPROACH: This proposal has as its objectives to investigate the effects of biosecurity on risk perceptions and economics. We propose a variety of methods which have not previously been used. For example, our measures of risk perception which are based on the Slovic model (Slovic, Fischhoff & Lichtenstein, 2000; Fischhoff, Slovic, Lichtenstein, Read, & Combs 2000) have not been used to investigate either terrorist risks or economic impacts by other investigators. Preliminary research appears to validate our methods, however more work is necessary. Our approach to economics is limited again by a lack of previous research into how economics can be used as a tool by terrorists. Our conclusion that targets of highly inelastic markets are highly attractive targets is theoretical and needs to be tested as a hypothesis. This study will accomplish this. Likewise, we propose integrating trade and regional models into our analysis. While we can validate some of the results, various internal assumptions such as fixed capital and constant returns to scale technology need to be taken into consideration. Furthermore, within the context of trade models, how risk perceptions are endogenized to change demand elasticities may prove to be challenging, and approximations achieved through shifting, rather than twisting supply and demand curves may be required. An accepted challenge to consumer research is the caveat that what consumers say they will do and what they actually do does not always match. However, our research on consumer responses to the threat of Mad Cow Disease has validated our approach and models.

Hallman, William
Rutgers University
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