As was made all too clear once again with the terrorist attacks in Belgium last week, information sharing across agencies is crucial during investigations. Foodborne illness outbreak investigations are no different from terror investigations in that sense.

Joseph Corby, executive director of the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO).
Joseph Corby, executive director of the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO).
Such information sharing is just one benefit from integration efforts in the U.S. among food safety officials and agencies at local, state and federal levels, said Joseph Corby, executive director of the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO). First-hand accounts of how the integration of food safety inspection and enforcement programs is enhancing outbreak detection, investigation and control are among the agenda topics for AFDO’s Integration Forum at the 2016 Food Safety Summit in Chicago. “The Food Safety Summit is the only place the Integration Forum will be presented,” Corby said. “AFDO chose the summit as the place to do this because we want to reach industry, consumers and academia.” This is the second year for the Integration Forum to be presented in conjunction with the summit. The forum is set for 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 10 at the Donald Stephens Convention Center near O’Hare Airport. The Food Safety Summit Conference & Expo is May 11 and 12. Discounted rates for the summit and accommodations are available through April 15. Corby said the 2015 Integration Forum served as an introduction to how better cooperation and coordination among governmental entities could mean a safer food supply for everyone and lower costs for industry and taxpayers. “This year we have first-hand accounts of how it is already working,” Corby said, citing an Ohio botulism outbreak linked to home-canned potatoes. “I believe more people would have gotten sick without our efforts.” The integration efforts include establishing equivalency agreements between state governments and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Corby said that one move could save businesses time and money because it could eliminate scenarios where federal inspectors check a facility only to be followed by state or local inspectors in a few days. Corby said another key element to governments integrating their food safety programs is the accreditation of state labs. The integration work includes the FDA and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, which is charged with the safety of the nation’s meat, poultry and egg products. “Sharing information is still one of the biggest problems,” Corby said, explaining that FSIS works under restrictions designed to protect businesses. “For example, FSIS may not be able to share distribution information (during an outbreak investigation) because of proprietary concerns. To break down that barrier, Corby said various governmental entities are implementing signed confidentiality agreements to use with industry. The confidentiality agreements require that individuals be “commissioned” to further ensure the protection of corporate information that could be used for competitive advantages. The agenda for the Integration Forum includes sessions on:

  • FDA’s Investments into a Nationally Integrated Food Safety System;
  • Building a National Competency Based Training System;
  • Work Planning & Inspection Strategies for FSMA Implementation;
  • Integrating the Nation’s Laboratory Efforts;
  • Integrating Globally and its Impact for Food Safety; and
  • What Will an Integrated Food Safety System Look Like?

In addition to Corby, presenters for the forum include:

  • Ron Klein, AFDO;
  • Steven Solomon, DVM, MPH, FDA;
  • Jerry Wojtala, International Food Protection Training Institute;
  • Loney Nunemaker, FDA;
  • Joann Givens, FDA/ORA;
  • Shari Shea, Association of Public Health Laboratories;
  • Karil L. Kochenderfer, The Global Food Safety Initiative;
  • David Dyjack, National Environmental Health Association;
  • Steven Mandernach, Iowa Department of Inspection & Appeals;
  • Sandra Eskin, The Pew Charitable Trusts; and
  • Kristen Spotz, Grocery Manufacturers Association.

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