Amid mounting concerns about the risk of multi-state food poisoning outbreaks, government health officials have announced new regulations that will go into effect in 2016, requiring companies to take more science-based precautionary measures to build a safer food market and more effective recall methods.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week that the food industry needs to become more proactive in preventing foodborne illness outbreaks, by adopting better food tracing records keeping, pre-market testing, and communication with government health agencies.
Between 2010 and 2014, multi-state outbreaks were responsible for 56% of all deaths from foodborne illnesses, even though they only accounted for just three percent of all outbreaks, according to CDC data outlined in a recent Vital Signs report.
The CDC is calling for increased efforts by the food industry to take more science-based precautionary measures before introducing products into the market to prevent such outbreaks.
“Americans should not have to worry about getting sick from the food they eat,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, in a press release. “Top-notch epidemiology and new gene sequencing tools are helping us quickly track down the source of foodborne outbreaks – and together with our national partners we are working with the food industry to prevent them from happening in the first place.”
The announcement was made amid a major multistate outbreak of E. Coli that has shut down 43 Chipotle restaurants in Washington and Oregon. It also comes at the same time that E. Coli contamination resulted in an All American Meats ground beef recall, affecting about 170,000 pounds of meat. to be removed from store shelves.
Multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks can be hard to solve even with the advanced methods used today according to the CDC. Currently, agencies such as the CDC and the FDA use DNA sequencing technology and epidemiological traceback investigations along with the food industry’s cooperation to determine sources of contamination. However, these investigations can be lengthy and require weeks or months to determine the source without proper distribution and record keeping from the suspected distributor or retailer. One of the major concerns is that the outbreak will continue to spread and infect more consumers until the root cause is determined and removed from the market.
In recent months the CDC, FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been attempting to persuade companies in the food industry to voluntarily submit genetic sequences of pathogens found during routine testing so that the specimen can be logged into a national database that would make tracking new outbreaks faster.
In addition to these requests, the CDC says it will pursue new regulations in 2016 to attempt to force the food industry to keep records that details their supply chain, help investigators identify what made consumers sick, choose suppliers that use the best food safety practices, and share proven food safety methods with the rest of the market. The list of recommendations also includes adopting food safety as a core principal and to meet or exceed new federally implemented food safety policies.
The CDC has assumed some of the burden of foodborne outbreaks and stated that federal and local government agencies could adopt more stringent policies such as working and communicating better between local, state, and federal agencies, helping state and local health departments improve food safety inspections and to have the federal regulators introduce DNA sequencing methods to state and local health departments to better trace contaminated food sources.
According to the CDC, newly implemented policies and better records keeping will prevent multi-state outbreaks that impact the food market every year. Recent data has discovered that over the last 5 years there have been 120 multi-state outbreaks with 34 percent of those impacted requiring hospitalization.
Some of the major contributors to the outbreaks are foodborne bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. Coli. These three germs specifically account for 91 percent of the multi-state outbreaks throughout the U.S. and can impact a wide variety of foods such as vegetables, beef, chicken, and fruits. Collectively, these illnesses all may cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in consumers and require either the infections to run its course over several days or if severe enough may require prescription treatment or hospital monitoring.