Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Systems Engineering

First Advisor

Davis, Lauren


According to the Center for Disease Control approximately 48 million people get sick from food-borne illnesses per year. In 2011, about 80% of illnesses were triggered by unspecified agents transmitted through food. Food contaminations put customers at risk and can be detrimental to the economy since customers rely on the fact that the food system is reliable and resilient. This research aims to compare the vulnerabilities of three food supply chain distribution channels: food retail, food service and food manufacturing. Distribution channels are the last nodes in the supply chain and they dictate how many people interact with contaminated products. This study will evaluate how many people are exposed to illness from an intentional chemical contamination. A discrete time Markov Chain with rewards model is developed to estimate the number of individuals to become ill given a successful attack on the food system. The model incorporates information on purchasing behavior, product shelf life, and the relationship between individual contaminant consumption and illness. Preliminary results show that more customers are expected to experience illness when purchasing from food retail and food service locations. However, food manufacturing has the shortest time frame for imposing an intervention to prevent further illness. The proposed research has the potential to provide insight into timely interventions and influence how intervention policies would need to be tailored to each distribution channel in the event that a chemical contamination occurs.