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FDA Establishing Foodborne Illness Outbreak Response Network

As part of its efforts to more effectively combat foodborne illness, and in the wake of the recent outbreak of contaminated cantaloupe, the Food and Drug Administration has announced a new outbreak response network. The Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network is dedicated to responding quickly to human and animal foodborne illness outbreaks, the agency stated.

As detailed in the FDA press release, the CORE Network will be comprised of a multi-disciplinary team of epidemiologists, veterinarians, microbiologists, environmental health specialists, emergency coordinators, and risk communications specialists. In addition, CORE will coordinate closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and state public health and agriculture agencies in human and animal foodborne illness outbreaks.

Dr. Kathleen F. Gensheimer, M.D., M.P.H., who the FDA touts as a nationally recognized public health leader who most recently was the state epidemiologist for Maine, will serve the new position of chief medical officer/outbreak director. In this capacity, she leads the CORE Network and has responsibility for all FDA preparedness, outbreak response, and post-response activities.

“The CORE Network builds on the best practices FDA has already implemented in its outbreak response efforts,” said Mike Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner of foods. “And, in keeping with the reforms of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, CORE activities will learn from outbreaks to develop preventive systems, in an effort to reduce them from happening in the future.”

“CORE will also allow for more consistency in monitoring and investigating outbreaks, as well as streamline decision making and improve food safety practices,” Taylor added.

“The centralized staff of the CORE Network will work closely with FDA’s field emergency response coordinators and the investigative and analytical teams in the District offices and associated laboratories,” said Dara Corrigan, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “Working together will help to both standardize and strengthen how we conduct foodborne outbreak activities in the field.”