In 2018 the United Nations General Assembly declared June 7th “World Food Safety Day”. Each year, World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations take the lead in this effort to highlight the importance of food safety and “inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks, contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism, and sustainable development.”
World Safety Day is meant to remind us all - consumers, producers and government officials, that safe production, oversight and consumption of food does not happen by accident. It requires sincere effort, starting with each segment taking responsibility for the activities under their purview.
There is an undeniable connection between temperature abuse and the development of pathogens in food. The proper food temperature must be maintained throughout the food production chain. Otherwise, there is imminent danger resulting from pathogen growth at every stage – production (growing produce or raising animals for food), processing (changing plants into what we recognize and buy as food), storage, distribution (moving food from a processing plant directly to the consumer or a food service establishment), and preparation (consumer kitchen or food establishment).
Consumers have a huge role to play when it comes to preventing foodborne illness. Simple actions such as cooking food to the correct temperature (145° for most meats and fish; 160° and 165° for ground meats and poultry, respectively). Cooling food properly is also very important. Refrigerators should be set to 40° or below. Although eating spoiled food will not necessarily cause illness, any food that has begun to decompose should be immediately discarded. The CDC even suggests that consumers who order meal kits develop the habit of measuring food temperature upon receipt.
The necessity for properly educating the public, as well as food producers, about the dangers of food mishandling is obvious considering the number of foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States. Over the last three-and-a-half years there have been 56 foodborne outbreak investigations. During an investigation three types of information will be gathered. Research of epidemiologic information includes identifying patterns of location and timing, along with conducting interviews, which lead to discovering where and when multiple individuals ingested the same contaminant. Traceback data is obtained from tracing the source of contaminated food back through the supply chain to when and how it most likely became contaminated. Food and environmental testing will reveal that a germ found to be responsible for causing an outbreak is present in a contaminated food and a sick individual.
The purpose of an outbreak investigation is to identify the source of the outbreak and take the necessary actions to prevent further illness. Multiple systems are used by various organizations, all with the purpose of gathering and organizing information. For example, United States health departments use a platform called National Outbreak Reporting System (NORS) to report to the CDC any incidents of intestinal illness. The National Electronic Norovirus Outbreak Network (CaliciNet) is used by laboratories to help them collaborate in identifying Norovirus and foodborne illness in the US. The success of an outbreak investigation is dependent upon these organizations sharing information with one another.
Recognizing the need for greater collaboration and data sharing in outbreak investigations, the CDC began developing SEDRIC: System for Enteric Disease Response, Investigation, and Coordination, which “lets disease detectives in many different locations work together faster and more effectively when responding to foodborne and animal-related outbreaks.” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). This system provides faster, real-time access to laboratory, epidemiologic and traceback data. Currently 450 users from state and local health departments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have access to multiple surveillance data sources, lists of sick individuals and maps showing location and sequence of contamination, information on past outbreaks and a portal for sharing various documents interdepartmentally.
Having real-time access to outbreak information is perhaps the best way to improve the speed at which foodborne illness outbreaks are resolved. Similarly, real-time temperature monitoring is one of the best technologies to help prevent foodborne illness related to temperature abuse. The visibility and data provided by real-time loggers enables quick decision-making and problem resolution. DeltaTrak is constantly enhancing our data loggers, thermometers and other food safety tools, as we continue to exceed customer requirements. If you have questions around food safety, please contact your dedicated DeltaTrak account manager or call 1-800-962-6776.
“SEDRIC: System for Enteric Disease Response, Investigation, and Coordination.” Foodborne Outbreaks, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/outbreaks/pdfs/SEDRIC-factsheet.pdf
“Foodborne Disease Outbreaks: The 3 Types of Data Used to Link Illnesses to Contaminated Foods and Solve Outbreaks.” Investigating Outbreaks, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/outbreaks/pdfs/outbreak-infographic.pdf
“World Food Safety Day 2021 – Safe food now for a healthy tomorrow.” World Health Organization, 7 June 2021, https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2021/06/07/default-calendar/world-food-safety-day-2021---safe-food-now-for-a-healthy-tomorrow