The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture—teamed up in 2011 to create the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC).

By bringing together the science  from CDC, FDA and FSIS, and by developing sound analytical methods, IFSAC’s goal was to improve estimates of the sources of foodborne illness.

IFSAC this week announced its priorities for 2024 to 2028

During 2024 – 2028 IFSAC will focus on generating the most accurate and actionable estimates for foodborne illness source attribution in the United States by leveraging the latest science, data, and methods, and will communicate these estimates to stakeholders in government, industry, academia, and consumer organizations.

Here are the four priorities for the 5-year period:

Priority 1: Explore additional data sources and alternative methods to better estimate the sources of foodborne illnesses caused by Campylobacter and harmonize estimates across different approaches and data sources.

IFSAC’s annual Foodborne Illness Source Attribution reports have aimed to estimate food category sources of Campylobacter illnesses using foodborne outbreak data. However, the sources of reported Campylobacter outbreaks differ considerably from the sources of non-outbreak- associated illnesses as reported by other types of epidemiological studies. One major concern is that the food products most frequently associated with Campylobacter outbreaks such as raw milk and chicken livers are rarely consumed. Therefore, outbreak data are not representative of sources of Campylobacter in the general U.S. population. For these reasons, IFSAC paused reporting of attribution estimates for Campylobacter in 2022. IFSAC aims to produce more reliable and generalizable Campylobacter source attribution estimates in the future.

Priority 2: Expand our list of priority pathogens to include non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) and provide source attribution estimates in IFSAC’s annual Foodborne Illness Source Attribution reports.
Non-O157 STEC is an important cause of foodborne illness in the United States and of increasing importance to federal food safety regulatory agencies. IFSAC will leverage existing non-O157 STEC data and analytical methods to estimate source attribution for this pathogen and incorporate these estimates in IFSAC Annual Attribution Reports. 

Priority 3: Consider incorporating data on non-foodborne sources of priority pathogens, such as animal and environmental sources, into IFSAC’s annual Foodborne Illness Source Attribution estimates to better refine and contextualize foodborne illness source attribution estimates.
Although the priority pathogens included in IFSAC’s analyses are spread predominantly through food-borne transmission, these pathogens also spread through contact with water, human, animal, and environmental sources. To generate more accurate estimates for food-borne illness source attribution, IFSAC analysts will explore available data for non-foodborne sources of the priority pathogens and consider methods to incorporate this information in communications. 

Priority 4: Finalize existing analyses and disseminate findings to multiple audiences. IFSAC is engaged in numerous projects (description of current and completed projects can be found on the IFSAC website), many of which have not been communicated through peer-reviewed journal articles or other publications. To ensure sufficient resources for IFSAC’s priority research areas during 2024 – 2028, IFSAC will review the status of all projects, determine which are close to completion, and identify which should be finalized and by when. During the final stages of each project, IFSAC will pursue and implement appropriate communication vehicles for each project, such as peer-reviewed publications, public reports, webinars, conference presentations, or updates to the IFSAC website to disseminate findings to the appropriate audiences including regulatory agencies, public health partners, academics, media, industry and the public. 

IFSAC published an initial strategic plan to outline its shared goals and objectives for the first five years of the collaboration, 2012 – 2016, which was followed by a strategic plan for 2017 – 2021 and an interim plan for 2022 – 2023.

 These documents outlined a commitment to improving foodborne illness source attribution estimates for the United States by focusing on three general areas: improving and expanding data, improving and expanding analytical methods, and improving and increasing communication activities. A description of projects, associated publications, and presentations are available on the IFSAC website.

Over the next five years, IFSAC intends to continue publishing annual reports with updated estimates of foodborne illness source attribution. IFSAC reiterates its overall focus and outline for priorities that will guide the work during calendar years 2024 – 2028.

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