New research from scientists with the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) on how to categorize foods linked to foodborne disease outbreaks was recently published in the Foodborne Pathogens and Disease journal. The paper, entitled, “An Updated Scheme for Categorizing Foods Implicated in Foodborne Disease Outbreaks: A Tri-Agency Collaboration,” updates previous food categories used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and has five levels with subcategories at each level, for a total of 234 food categories.
Highlights of the IFSAC food categorization scheme include:
- Close alignment with the food product definitions used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) for regulatory purposes;
- Separation of Aquatic Animals, Land Animals, and Plant foods into increasingly specific animal (for example, Fish, Dairy, Beef) or botanical (for example, Fruits, Fungi, Root/Underground) food categories;
- Separation of foods based on food processing, preparation, and consumption type (for example, ready-to-eat meats, canned/containerized produce); and
- New categories for “Other” foods and foods not assigned to a category under the previous scheme (for example, “Multiple-Ingredient Food,” “Multiple Foods Reported”).
The IFSAC food categorization scheme provides more specific descriptions of the foods that cause outbreaks in the United States. The increased specificity of food categories may help improve source attribution analyses, eventually leading to improved foodborne illness source attribution estimates and enhanced food safety and regulatory efforts.
IFSAC is a collaboration among the CDC, USDA-FSIS, and FDA. The collaboration works to improve coordination of federal food safety analytic efforts and address cross-cutting priorities for food safety data collection, analysis, and use. Projects and studies aim to identify foods that are important sources of illnesses.