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Better Communication Essential For Safer Food

In a new study from Temple University, researchers highlight the need for an interstate system to track and manage foodborne illnesses.

 

In the past month, two multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks have been reported, 23 people in 10 states have become ill with Salmonella infections after eating contaminated alfalfa sprouts and 13 people in five states became ill with E. coli infections after eating romaine lettuce. Earlier this year, more than 238 people in 44 states contracted Salmonella from red and black pepper.

 

Since 1998, the number of widespread foodborne disease outbreaks has risen nearly 28 percent.

 

Public health professor Jennifer Ibrahim says it could be because there is a breakdown in communication between state governments, allowing outbreaks to spread to several states in a short period of time.

 

“As interstate transport of food products is a routine part of the food industry, it is imperative for state governments to have systems in place to detect, respond and coordinate with neighboring states to ensure a swift response to minimize morbidity and perhaps mortality,” she said in a statement from the university.

 

Ibrahim and Fanta Waterman Purayidathil, a public health PhD student, presented research at this year’s National Environmental Health Association meeting on June 7 stating that foodborne disease outbreaks that span multiple states lead to nearly twice the number of hospitalizations and deaths than outbreaks within states.

 

Through inspections, tracing, prevention programs, and public education, there have been federal efforts to modify the existing food safety infrastructure. For example, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act requires food facilities to evaluate hazards and implement preventive measures, and allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to suspend a facility’s registration if it fails to do so.

 

However Ibrahim notes there is still a clear need for a more streamlined approach to handling foodborne illness at the state level.

 

As part of Temple’s Public Law Research Program, housed at the Beasley School of Law, Ibrahim is working to link existing state level food safety laws with health outcomes as a result of foodborne illness, using the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s new OutbreakNet Foodborne Outbreak Online Database.

 

“Multistate outbreaks are associated with higher rates of hospitalization and death, posing a great risk if these outbreaks are not identified and addressed quickly and effectively,” she said.

This story, and the statement by Temple University, originally incorrectly referred to the Secretary of Agriculture, the FDA bill would give that authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

© Food Safety News
  • hhamil

    Ms. Nemeth, your article highlights one of the reasons which those of us who actually grow, pack, process, distribute, store and/or retail local, healthy food are concerned about the “experts” who are so certain they should be empowered to tell us how to do our work.
    The statement, “For example, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act requires food facilities to evaluate hazards and implement preventive measures, and allows the Secretary of Agriculture to suspend a facility’s registration if it fails to do so,” is wrong.
    From day one, registration of food facilities has been under the FDA and, in both S 510 and HR 2749, the power to suspend a facility’s registration is granted to the Secretary of HHS to which the FDA reports, not the FDA.
    I believe it is important for FSN’s readers to know that you didn’t make the factual mistake. You only reprinted it. The mistake is in Temple University’s Press Release which you linked above. I have called their contact and informed her of their error.
    I wonder if Professor Ibrahim made the error in her presentation and, if she did, whether or not anyone caught it and showed her the courtesy of pointing out her error.
    As I have repeatedly pointed out even those “experts” who ought to know what is in the legislation all too often don’t.
    Please correct your article so that you don’t mislead your readers.

  • Harry Hamil

    Ms. Nemeth, your article highlights one of the reasons which those of us who actually grow, pack, process, distribute, store and/or retail local, healthy food are concerned about the “experts” who are so certain they should be empowered to tell us how to do our work.
    The statement, “For example, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act requires food facilities to evaluate hazards and implement preventive measures, and allows the Secretary of Agriculture to suspend a facility’s registration if it fails to do so,” is wrong.
    From day one, registration of food facilities has been under the FDA and, in both S 510 and HR 2749, the power to suspend a facility’s registration is granted to the Secretary of HHS to which the FDA reports, not the FDA.
    I believe it is important for FSN’s readers to know that you didn’t make the factual mistake. You only reprinted it. The mistake is in Temple University’s Press Release which you linked above. I have called their contact and informed her of their error.
    I wonder if Professor Ibrahim made the error in her presentation and, if she did, whether or not anyone caught it and showed her the courtesy of pointing out her error.
    As I have repeatedly pointed out even those “experts” who ought to know what is in the legislation all too often don’t.
    Please correct your article so that you don’t mislead your readers.

  • B Davis

    I think we have all seen in the media how sound bites are collected and then expanded into full stories developed by journalists who may not be as experienced with the topic; note that only a portion of the piece is actually in quotes.
    Mr. Hamil’s comments express a frustration felt by many in this industry. In reading the release more carefully, however, it appears that Dr. Ibrahim was suggesting collaboration and not finger-pointing.

  • Jennifer Ibrahim

    Mr. Hamil, you are absolutely correct. This was a mistake in the press release alone and not the study itself. I completely agree with you that it is imperative to convey accurate and timely information and I apologize for any confusion that this may have caused.