FDA issues improvement plan for foodborne illness outbreak responses
The FDA has released its Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan designed to help enhance the speed, effectiveness, coordination and communication of foodborne outbreak investigations.
"We are confident that the actions outlined in this plan will, in turn, translate into activities focused on enhancing the prevention of outbreaks."
The Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan focuses on four specific priority areas in which improvements will have the most impact on outbreaks associated with human food.
Tech-enabled product traceback – Engaging smarter ways to digitize and routinely receive information needed to streamline the traceback process, which are the steps we use to pinpoint the source of contaminated foods during investigations. These tactics include obtaining more complete voluntarily provided consumer purchase data to better specify critical traceback information, facilitating and expediting how the FDA receives data and employing more advanced analytical methods and computational approaches. The FDA will work to harmonize efforts with federal, state, local and territorial counterparts, as well with industry and others involved in traceback investigations.
- Root-cause investigations (RCIs) – Systematizing, expediting and sharing FDA RCIs. The plan focuses on adapting and strengthening protocols and procedures for conducting timely RCIs of foodborne illness outbreaks, standardizing criteria for producing FDA RCI reports, and expediting the release of investigation findings to industry and the public.
- Strengthen analysis and dissemination of outbreak data – Working with the CDC, the USDA’s FSIS and other partners to identify reoccurring, emerging and persistent strains of pathogens. Specifically, the FDA will facilitate improvements to sharing of data with the CDC as well as other regulatory partners to further increase transparency of outbreak investigations, increase public confidence in results, and facilitate improved collaboration on investigation activities.
- Operational improvements – Building on performance measures across the FDA’s foods program to better evaluate the timeliness and effectiveness of outbreak and regulatory investigation activities. The FDA is committed to using performance and outcome measures to assess progress of this improvement plan by updating stakeholders, posting updates on its website and through a public webinar in early 2022 to discuss how regulatory partners, industry and others can work together to achieve these goals.
"Our improvement plan sets out a clear pathway to achieving these important goals. We will continue to do everything we can to protect consumers from unsafe food."
The plan was created in collaboration with experts in the public and private sectors, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Saftey Inspection Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state health officials and industry and consumer foodborne outbreak experts.
The University of Minnesota's School of Public Health also provided recommendations in an independent report that played a role in the new plan.
"Adding the Outbreak Response Improvement Plan to our arsenal, which includes FSMA and the New Era of Smarter Food Safety, will ultimately prevent illnesses and save lives; and that is what this work is all about for us."