FDA Issues Plan to Help Modernize Foodborne Illness Outbreak Responses

The plan will help the agency evolve its outbreak investigations to meet today’s needs using the most modern-day tools available and set a clear pathway to achieving its response goals.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released its Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan, which is designed to help the FDA and its partners enhance the speed, effectiveness, coordination and communication of foodborne outbreak investigations.

The plan focuses on four specific priority areas:

  • Tech-enabled product traceback–Engaging smarter ways to digitize and routinely receive information needed to streamline the traceback process, which are the steps the FDA uses 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.
  • 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 FDA.gov and through a public webinar in early 2022 to discuss how regulatory partners, industry, and others can work together to achieve these goals.

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