Food Safety

Improving Outbreak Response with FoodCORE: an Introduction to Food Safety Success Stories

By Jessica A. Monmaney, Senior Technician, Food Safety and Infectious Diseases, APHL

A few months ago, you may have heard about an ongoing and growing Salmonella outbreak. By the end of the outbreak, there were 425 people sick across 28 states, and 55 people hospitalized. However, without the quick action by the states and cities involved, many more people could have become ill. In large part due to CDC’s Foodborne Diseases Centers for Outbreak Response Enhancement (FoodCORE) program, the outbreak’s cause was identified as scraped raw frozen tuna and further illnesses were prevented.

FoodCORE is a program that started in 2009 and is currently made up of 7 centers: Connecticut, New York City, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Utah. FoodCORE finds solutions to outbreaks more rapidly through a system of comprehensive interviews, prompt DNA fingerprinting of pathogens and efficient information sharing among partners. Interviews with sick individuals regarding recent food consumption allow FoodCORE centers to identify potentially contaminated products, fingerprint the DNA of the bacteria and combine information to determine what made people sick.

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At the 16th Annual PulseNet and 8th Annual OutbreakNet Update Conference, the FoodCORE team provided crucial input/participation throughout numerous facets of the conference as a whole, and collaborated for a member networking session and an open session. The following people deserve a round of applause for their efforts leading up to, and throughout, the conference: Jennifer Mitchell, Julia Hall and Kim Quinn as General Session moderators; Katie Garmin, Marilee O’Connor and Jenni Wagner as Regional Breakout Session Facilitators; Heather Hanson, HaeNa Waechter, Jeannette Dill, Amy Woron, Katie Garmin, Tim Monson and David Young as speakers and poster presenters; and all of the FoodCORE members who took the time to engage PulseNet and OutbreakNet partners during the Sunrise Sessions and the Q&A portions of the General Sessions.

The FoodCORE Members Networking Session was attended by over 40 people, including staff from FoodCORE centers, as well as partners from CDC’s Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch, leadership and sites from FDA’s Rapid Response Team (RRT), APHL and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Center participants met in small groups to discuss center-specific future goals and upcoming projects. Attendees successfully concluded the meeting in agreement on team-wide projects and goals, such as improving the process of reporting metrics and the development of model practices documentation.

An open session on the first day of the conference provided over 70 conference attendees with the opportunity to become more familiar with FoodCORE and the lessons learned while resolving outbreaks that lead to success stories. In addition to the raw scraped tuna outbreak, the Ohio state lab created an innovative way to provide information on norovirus infection and protection through social media, New York City used their a “Team Salmonella” to solve an outbreak of Salmonella related to kosher chicken livers, and Utah utilized FoodCORE resources to resolve an outbreak of Salmonella in queso fresco that had stumped state public health officials for two years. For more details on these outbreaks – including interviews with staff at FoodCORE centers from the frontlines of these success stories – please stay tuned for the upcoming fall issue of APHL’s Lab Matters!

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