The FDA Releases a New Plan for Responding to Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

The new plan calls for high-tech food product tracing and faster and better analysis and sharing of information – and might mean you won't have to worry as much about recalled onions and spinach in the future

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Hundreds of thousands of pounds of food get recalled each year in the U.S., and hundreds of people become ill. While those of us who avoid meat products are spared many of the contamination scares, the issue certainly still impacts plant-based eaters. Just in the past year, we’ve seen recalls related to onions (salmonella), kale (listeria), and hummus (salmonella), among other products. Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a plant that, officials say, will modernize how the FDA responds to foodborne illness outbreaks.

The Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan, developed through work with private sector, university, and government experts, promises “a new approach to create a safer, more digital, and traceable food system,” according to an FDA statement.

At the heart of the new plan are four “priority areas” the agency will be implementing: greater adoption of technology-enabled product tracing; investigations into root causes of outbreaks including expediting how findings are released to food-makers and the public; improving how information about outbreaks is analyzed and shared, including working more closely with the CDC and other partners to identify recurring or emerging pathogens; and improving operations within the FDA.

The new plan homes to boost the public’s confidence in the agency’s foodborne illness response process and the safety of products available on supermarket shelves.

“We know that the 21st century has brought new challenges in identifying, investigating and controlling outbreaks of foodborne disease, but it has also brought new tools to meet those challenges,” reads a statement from the FDA. “That is why we are taking steps through this improvement plan to evolve our outbreak investigations to meet modern-day needs using the most modern-day tools available. Our investigations must be faster, more streamlined and more effective to identify, pinpoint and remove contaminated food from the market and identify root-cause factors in the food system to prevent similar outbreaks in the future.”


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