Within the next couple of weeks, expect to see a copy of the recently completed Guidelines for Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response, a comprehensive best-practices document, published by the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR). The report focuses on improving detection and response to foodborne outbreaks, and is a comprehensive resource for federal, state and local agencies involved in investigating foodborne outbreaks.
The Guidelines are the product of a three-year collaboration between public health and food safety partners from all levels of government, and technical experts from a variety of associations and academic institutions. The Guidelines map out and discuss all of the steps involved in foodborne disease outbreak response, including preparation, detection, investigation, control and follow-up.
The Guidelines also discuss the roles that key organizations play during outbreak response, describe strategies for improving inter-agency communication and coordination during multi-state outbreaks, and identify benchmarks organizations can use to compare and critique their performance during response activities.
While the Guidelines are indeed a comprehensive source of information, they’re not a replacement for existing procedure manuals. Rather, they serve both as a complimentary resource to improve and update already established procedures and as a training tool for staff.
As mentioned earlier, the Guidelines are the product of many hours of collaboration among a large number of partners including APHL. We’re proud to have been involved with this project from its inception, and we have provided both technical expertise during the development phase, as well as assistance with marketing and distributing the final document.
However, the Guidelines are just the first step. It’s now up to everyone with a role in foodborne disease response to use the Guidelines correctly. With proper implementation, the number of people affected by foodborne illnesses each year can be greatly reduced.