Don Sharpe, director of CDC – CIFOR (a partnership with U.S. state and local health departments, the USDA, FDA, and PulseNet), Vince Radke, CDC Sanitarian and Ian Wiliams, director of CDC – OutbreakNet, were part of a very interesting discussion on how foodborne illness outbreak investigations are conducted in the Untied States and throughout the world today at the International Food Safety Conference.


From the CDC website on OutbreakNet:

CDC’s Outbreak Response Team collaborates with the national network of epidemiologists and other public health officials who investigate outbreaks of foodborne, waterborne, and other enteric illnesses in the United States. It works in partnership with U.S. state and local health departments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and PulseNet (a national surveillance network made up of state and local public health laboratories and federal food regulatory agency laboratories that perform pulsed-field gel electrophoresis on bacteria that may be foodborne). The Outbreak Response Team works to ensure rapid, coordinated detection and response to multi-state outbreaks of enteric diseases and promote comprehensive outbreak surveillance. It also seeks to improve the collaboration and partnership among officials in local, state, and federal agencies who work with foodborne and diarrheal disease outbreak surveillance and response.

Although, I have become quite familiar with the work of OutbreakNet, I knew much less about CIFOR. From the CDC website on CIFOR:

The Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR) is a multidisciplinary working group convened to increase collaboration across the country and across relevant areas of expertise in order to reduce the burden of foodborne illness in the United States. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) are co-chairing CIFOR with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Foodborne and other enteric diseases affect millions of Americans each year. Many organizations are involved in efforts to mitigate the effects of these illnesses on public health. Outbreak identification and investigation is one of the key areas where multidisciplinary public health professionals must collaborate. The epidemiology of foodborne diseases is always changing because the diagnostic and subtyping capabilities in laboratories is changing, there are newly recognized and emerging pathogens, changes in food production, distribution, processing, and consumption patterns, demographic shifts, and many other factors. To successfully manage foodborne outbreak challenges, public health agencies must constantly adapt.

CIFOR was created to develop and share guidelines, processes, and products that will facilitate good foodborne outbreak response.

It has been an informative two days.  I also got invited to speak at a Food Safety Conference in the “New Egypt.”  As someone said, “may you live in interesting times.”