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New FDA Investigation Tool Seeks To Warn The Public Of Food Poisoning Outbreaks Earlier

Federal health officials have developed new tools designed to help identify food poisoning outbreaks earlier, and notify the public sooner so consumers can take precautionary measures, such as avoiding potentially contaminated foods before a recall is announced.

The FDA issued a press release this week to announce the development of a new outbreak investigation tool, which the agency claims will allow it to warn the public about potential outbreaks in their early stages, meaning consumers could be taking action to avoid getting sick before a recall is even officially announced.

According to the statement, the FDA’s investigation team, the Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network, has begun publishing weekly updates to its new investigation table, which will be available on the agency’s website for consumer view.

The investigation table is a record of the status of ongoing investigations into potential food contamination or food poisoning problems. It includes information such as the stage of investigation, possible sources of contamination, type of pathogen, and whether a recall has been issued in relation to all ongoing foodborne illness investigations launched by the FDA.

The public will be able to access the table, and find information on potential food poisoning outbreaks or other food safety issues, before the FDA issues an official public warning or recall.

The FDA hopes that publishing the investigation table will help spread information to the public faster, and allow consumers access to almost real-time investigation updates to help protect consumers from exposure to potentially contaminated food and enable retailers and consumers to take appropriate actions.

The agency issues more than 500 food recalls every year, on average, which cause an estimated 48 million illnesses and 3,000 deaths annually in the U.S.

With more than 80,000 food manufacturing plants in the United States, only about one-tenth are inspected annually due to lack of available resources at the FDA. As a result, the agency tends to focus on high-risk manufacturers while the majority go without inspection each year.

The agency has proposed several new technologies and tracing methodologies over the last several years to enhance traceability, respond more rapidly to outbreaks, address new business models, reduce contamination of food, and foster the development of stronger food safety cultures.

Earlier this year, the FDA announced a new food safety blueprint for several branches of the food industry, with the first being tracing technologies allowing companies and investigators to follow food from farm to the consumer’s table to provide greater supply chain visibility.

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