Today FDA released a plan to help the agency and its partners improve the “speed, effectiveness, coordination and communication” of investigations surrounding foodborne illness outbreaks.
“We know that the 21st century has brought new challenges in identifying, investigating and controlling outbreaks of foodborne disease, but it has also brought new tools to meet those challenges,” stated Frank Yiannas, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, and Stic Harris, D.V.M. director of the FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network in an agency news release. “We also recognize that today’s U.S. food system is large and decentralized, with a broad array of widely distributed products, which we must adapt to in order to help ensure the safety of these products. That is why we are taking steps through this improvement plan to evolve our outbreak investigations to meet modern-day needs using the most modern-day tools available. Our investigations must be faster, more streamlined and more effective to identify, pinpoint and remove contaminated food from the market and identify root-cause factors in the food system to prevent similar outbreaks in the future.”
The Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan targets four areas that, if improved, will have the greatest effect on foodborne illness outbreaks:
- Tech-enabled product traceback: Being smarter about using digital technology, regularly, to streamline traceback investigations
- Root-cause investigations: Adapting and strengthening procedures for conducting root-cause investigations
- Working with the CDC, USDA’s FSIS and other partners to improve the analysis and distribution of outbreak data (including identifying recurring, emerging and persistent strains of pathogens)
- Enhancing performance measures across the agency’s food programs to enable better evaluation of the timeless and effectiveness of outbreak and regulatory investigation activities
In addition to this improvement plan, the agency also released “An Independent Review of FDA’s Foodborne Outbreak Response Processes”, which was contracted with the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. The independent report played an important role in the development of FDA’s improvement plan.