A new plan from the FDA for a smarter food safety to tackle foodborne outbreak

The FDA has announced its Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan ("Improvement Plan") as part of its effort to execute the Food Safety Modernization Act and the New Era of Smarter Food Safety program. The plan outlines a critical step the FDA is taking to improve the speed, efficacy, coordination, and communication of outbreak investigations.    

Two of the blueprint's Core Elements, "Tech-Enabled Traceability" and "Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention and Outbreak Response," are expected to be supplemented by the plan. In three areas, I) product tracing, II) root cause investigations, and III) the use of core data, the document looked at the FDA's roles and duties, methods, priorities, decision trees, and procedures for foodborne outbreak response. The plan's purpose is to react to foodborne outbreaks more promptly and effectively, as well as to limit the number of outbreaks that go unresolved in the future. As part of its commitment to streamlining and expediting the outbreak response, the FDA is leveraging digital data and employing more sophisticated analytical methods. It is also working hand-in-hand with the government, industry, and consumer partners to learn from previous outbreaks and communicate necessary information, both timely and effectively, in order to help prevent future outbreaks.    

The FDA's Improvement Plan focuses on four specific priority areas that the agency feels would have the greatest effect on outbreaks involving human food. The first is the "Tech-enabled product traceback," which is a digital resource that collects voluntarily submitted consumer purchase data to help FDA acquire epidemic data more quickly and efficiently. The "Root cause investigations (RCIs)" is the second one, which is a collection of rules and processes designed to assist standardize and accelerate the distribution of outbreak investigation data to industry and the general public. The third area is the "Analysis and dissemination of outbreak data," in which the FDA will collaborate with the CDC, USDA's FSIS, and other partners to improve data sharing across the agencies, which should aid in the identification of recurrent, emerging, and persistent pathogen strains. The last priority area is "Operational improvements," in which the Agency will work to improve its performance metrics in order to more accurately assess the timeliness and efficacy of outbreak and regulatory investigation efforts.