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FDA Releases Plan, Independent Review to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response

Foodborne disease remains a significant public health problem in the United States. Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released the Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan to enhance the speed, effectiveness, coordination, and communication of investigations into outbreaks of foodborne illness. The goal is to improve our ability to identify the sources and causes of foodborne illness outbreaks. These improvements will help to reduce the number of foodborne outbreaks that go unsolved and ultimately bend the curve of foodborne illness in this country.

This Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan is intended to work in concert with FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, which outlines specific approaches the FDA will take over the next decade to address food safety in the rapidly changing food system. It focuses on tech-enabled traceability, root cause analysis, outbreak data, and operational improvements.

Observations by and recommendations from FDA leadership and staff across the foods program played a key role in the development of the outbreak improvement plan. The plan was also informed by an independent review of the FDA’s structural and functional capacity to support, participate in, or lead multistate foodborne illness outbreak investigation activities.

The plan, which is focused on outbreaks associated with human food, is divided into four priority areas:

  • Tech-enabled product traceback, focusing on ways to routinely digitize the process of tracing foods to their source.
  • Root cause investigations, working to systemize, expedite and share the results of FDA investigations into the cause of a food contamination.
  • Analysis and dissemination of outbreak data to increase the transparency of outbreak investigations.
  • Operational improvements to streamline processes and create performance measures.

In early 2022, a webinar will be held to walk stakeholders through the plan and to respond to questions.

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