US report urges better foodborne disease
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Quality-Safety/US-report-urges-better-foodborne-disease-monitoring
By Jane Byrne, 17-Dec-2008
/ Safety / Hygiene
A new US report
concludes that major gaps remain in many critical areas of preparedness for
health emergencies, including foodborne disease
Trust for America's
Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) have released the
sixth annual Ready or Not? Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases,
Disasters, and Bioterrorism report.
This edition of the
report found that 20 states did not meet or exceed the national US average
rate for being able to identify the pathogens responsible for foodborne disease outbreaks in their states, and it
references some of the more serious 2008 US health emergencies including the Salmonella
outbreak in jalapeno and Serrano peppers that sickened 1,442 people in 43
states and the largest beef recall
in US history in February.
public’s food supply is a real world example of public health preparedness as
it requires the same skills and technologies needed to detect and mitigate
bioterrorism and infectious disease outbreaks,” states the report.
Foodborne disease reporting
According to the Ready
or Not? report, between 2004 and 2006, the last
year for which US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data was
available at the time of publication, state public health departments
reported a total of 3,548 foodborne disease
outbreaks that sickened 74,077 individuals.
“Of the 3,548 reported
outbreaks, state public health departments were only able to confirm the etiology, or causative pathogen, in 1,552 cases, or 44
per cent of outbreaks,” said the authors.
Identifying foodborne disease outbreaks requires regular submission
of clinical isolates and specimens to state public health labs,
continued the report.
The publication states
that, in the opinion of the US Association of Public Health Laboratories
(APHL), hospital and clinical laboratories are sometimes reluctant to send
isolates of foodborne pathogens to a state public
health laboratory due to cost and time issues.
“Failure by these
nongovernmental laboratories to submit isolates, specimens and samples could
delay timely identification of an outbreak, prolonging exposure to the
contaminated product and leading to increased incidence of disease,” claims the APHL.
State and local level invovlement
The authors of the Ready
or Not? report argue that while much of the food safety debate has been
over the reforms needed at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US
Department of Agriculture (USDA), the focus should also be on coordination
and collaboration with food safety regulators and health officials at the
state and local level.
In order to strengthen
the roles of state and local agencies, in both their community-based food
safety efforts and as integral parts of the nation’s food safety system, the
report draws attention to the planned series of RWJF funded meetings among
state and local officials, their federal counterparts, and food industry and
Participants at these
meetings, according to the report, will focus on:
Formulating and expressing a modern vision of the
role of state and local government in an integrated, prevention-oriented food
Identifying gaps or constraints in current law,
policy and practice at the federal, state and local levels that inhibit
fulfilment of that vision;
Recommending changes in law, policy, and practice
that are needed to enhance the effectiveness of state and local agencies in
addressing food safety problems at the local, state, and national level;
Identifying specific opportunities to improve
collaboration among state, local, and federal agencies; and
Describing current funding patterns and resource
needs at the state and local level.
The project will
disseminate a report in 2009, according to the Ready or Not? authors.