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What is CIFOR and how does it prevent foodborne disease outbreaks?

The Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR) logo

In 2018, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) approximated the economic burden of foodborne illness to be $17.6 million. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year one in six Americans get sick – with 128,000 becoming hospitalized and 3,000 dying – from foodborne illness.

The Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR) helps lessen these health and economic burdens by improving outbreak detection methods, laboratory testing efficiencies, investigation tools and procedures, and control strategies. These improvements allow for the rapid detection of sick individuals and connect those illnesses to contaminated food products, thereby preventing the spread of foodborne disease outbreaks or even stopping them from happening.

What is CIFOR?

CIFOR is a multi-disciplinary group of public health professionals formed in 2006. The council includes federal agencies and national professional organizations whose staff and members have an interest in and responsibility for controlling foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States.

CIFOR was formed to identify barriers to the rapid detection of and response to foodborne disease outbreaks and develops projects that address these barriers. CIFOR members work collaboratively to develop model programs and products that facilitate investigation and control of foodborne disease outbreaks. They also work to improve performance and coordination in foodborne disease investigations across all levels of government.

CIFOR’s flagship product is the Guidelines to Improve Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response, otherwise known as CIFOR Guidelines.

Initially published in 2009, the CIFOR Guidelines are a comprehensive source of information on foodborne disease investigation and control for local, state, territorial, tribal and federal health agencies. The guidelines describe model practices for preparing for, detecting, investigating and controlling foodborne disease outbreaks and define the roles key organizations play in these activities.

The Third Edition of CIFOR Guidelines for Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response was released in the fall of 2020. This version incorporates several changes regarding disease surveillance, laboratory testing and outbreak detection practices since the first and second editions were published. The CIFOR Toolkit was updated in 2020 to reflect the changes in the third edition of the guidelines.

What is APHL’s role in CIFOR?

The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) is a founding member of CIFOR. APHL represents the state and local government laboratory perspective within the council and provides key insight on the barriers to rapid laboratory detection and response to foodborne illness.

The focus of APHL’s work is to help strengthen laboratory systems. One way in which APHL accomplishes this is by providing necessary training to laboratory personnel and other key partners.

Working closely with CIFOR members, APHL created the CIFOR Learning Modules to provide a high-level overview of the concepts and best practices covered in the CIFOR Guidelines.  Here are five things you should know about the CIFOR Learning Modules:  

  1. Based on the Third Edition of the CIFOR Guidelines to Improve Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response, published in 2020.
  2. Designed for any public health practitioner involved in the detection, investigation, control or prevention of foodborne illness outbreaks.
  3. Free!
  4. Can be found in the APHL Learning Center. Log in with your APHL account, or if you don’t have one, create one quickly for free!
  5. Provide 2.5 contact hour(s) of continuing education for laboratorians who successfully complete this training by October 23, 2025.

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