The last time anybody
counted, there were 2,864 local health departments operating in every state
except Rhode Island. Some are units of state governments, cities and counties
operate many, and others are a state-local hybrid.
To think that the so-called “first responders” on the frontlines of
food-borne illness outbreaks would ever be on the “same page” might be
expecting too much.
"Guidelines for Foodborne Disease
Outbreak Response", a 200-page report by seven professional
organizations and three federal agencies, are designed to achieve just that.
It will not immediately replace local procedure manuals for those responding
to outbreaks, but it will serve as a reference guide and best practices
“It is our hope that this document will be useful to investigators at all
levels in improving outbreak investigations and serve as a platform for
developing local and agency-specific policies and additional tools to support
these critical public health activities, said Tennessee State Epidemiologist
Dr. Tim Jones.
Jones is co-chair of the umbrella group that wrote the Guidelines, The
Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR). The Council of State
and Territorial Epidemiologists and the National Association of County and
City Health Officers lead the group.
“The main thing is this provides state and local departments with the best
practices,” said Scott E. Holmes of Nebraska’s Lincoln-Lancaster County
Health Department. He said currently there are no standard methods for
conducting an investigation into a food-borne illness outbreak.
The Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), the Association of Public
Health Laboratories (APHL), the Association of State and Territorial Health
Officials (ASTHO), the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
(NASDA), the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), the Food
Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),
and the Centers on Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are the other members
The document is available online in
this PDF file.
Foodborne illness in the United States causes 76 million cases of illnesses,
over 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths annually, according to CDC.
Hospitalizations due to foodborne illnesses are estimated to cost over $3
billion and lost productivity is estimated to cost between $20 billion and
$40 billion each year.