FDA unveils foodborne illness outbreak response network

Sep 14, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that it has established a new streamlined system to respond more efficiently and quickly to human and animal foodborne illness outbreaks.

The new system, called the FDA Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network, includes epidemiologists, veterinarians, microbiologists, environmental health specialists, emergency coordinators, and risk communicators who will work full-time on outbreak prevention and response at headquarters, the FDA said in a press release.

Investigators in FDA field offices will complement CORE activities, which will be coordinated closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and state public health and agriculture departments on foodborne illness outbreaks.

The FDA CORE Network is led by Kathleen F. Gensheimer, MD, MPH, a nationally known public health leader who was recently Maine's state epidemiologist. In February the FDA had announced that it was creating a position to put one person in charge of dealing with foodborne disease outbreaks and leading a permanent team to focus on the task.

Gensheimer's title is chief medical officer/outbreak director, and she reports to Mike Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner of foods.

Taylor said in the statement that the CORE Network builds on FDA's best practices and, in keeping with the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, is designed to develop systems to prevent outbreaks.

"CORE will also allow for more consistency in monitoring and investigating outbreaks, as well as streamline decision making and improve food safety practices," he said.

Christopher Braden, MD, who directs the CDC's division of foodborne, waterborne, and environmental diseases, said in the statement that senior leadership in the FDA and CDC have been focusing on the day-to-day working relationship. "We have built a solid foundation, and the CORE Network helps take us to the next level," he added.

Earlier this year, Taylor said the agency had used "kind of an ad hoc approach" to handling outbreaks, assigning people from various FDA offices to work on them on a temporary basis. He aid he envisioned a more holistic approach that broadens the FDA's efforts beyond its immediate response.

See also:

Sep 14 FDA press release

Feb 10 CIDRAP News story "FDA to add director for foodborne outbreak efforts"

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