The Food Related Emergency Exercise Bundle (FREE-B) is a compilation of scenarios based on both intentional and unintentional food contamination events. It is designed with the intention of assisting government regulatory and public health agencies in assessing existing food emergency response plans, protocols and procedures that may be in place, or that they are in the process of revising or even developing. The FREE-B is designed to allow for multiple jurisdictions and organizations (medical community, private sector, law enforcement, first responder communities) to ‘play’ with the host agency, or, quite simply, for an individual agency to test their own plans, protocols and procedures independently.
FDA developed FREE-B in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Additionally, numerous subject matter experts participated in various rounds of reviews and refinement of the FREE-B.
The FREE-B is a set of eight (8) scenarios, each of which contains a Facilitator’s Guide, a Lead Planner’s guide and a Situation Manual. The eight scenarios and a brief intro of each are as follows:
How Sweet It Is(n’t) - This scenario focuses attention on the regulatory traceback investigation that occurs after standard product testing shows that a food product contains excessive levels of a contaminant, as well as a recall of contaminated food.
Stealthy Situation - This exercise is a comprehensive scenario and highlights nuances encountered when a cluster of illness is associated with a foodservice establishment. The scenario includes the epidemiological investigation, identification of affected product through traceback procedures, implementation of a recall, and the role of regulatory agencies.
Wilted Woes - This scenario begins at the outset of early signal detection with clinical illness reports, and focuses on the epidemiological investigation process to identify the food vehicle when there is a human health emergency caused by an unintentional contamination of produce with E. coli O157:H7.
High Plains Harbinger - This scenario focuses on the investigation of animal disease caused by intentional infection of cattle with Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) virus, highlighting the various animal agriculture agencies (Federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal) and their roles and responsibilities, as well as introducing the roles and responsibilities of law enforcement agencies during an animal health emergency.
Insider Addition - This scenario focuses attention on the intentional aspect of contamination of a raw meat product at the processor with a chemical agent. Various nontraditional organizations and expertise needed to investigate intentional contaminations and the establishment of collaborative processes and roles and responsibilities with the traditional public health and regulatory partners are highligthed.
Mass Mayhem - This scenario focuses on the investigation of a foodborne illness outbreak during a large event and illustrates the importance of collaborating in a diverse team of professionals, establishing roles and responsibilities, and responding to an urgent mass contamination event.
Wat'er You Thinking - This scenario focuses on the investigation of the possible contamination of the water supply in an industrial town and illustrates the importance of water safety from all parties involved in the treatment, storage, and distribution of water. The exercise will also highlight the significance of collaborating in a diverse team of professionals, establishing roles and responsibilities, and responding to an urgent event.
Foul Fodder - This exercise scenario focuses on the investigation of intentional product contamination with organic chemicals and protocol procedures used by agricultural, local, State, and federal agencies, as well as their roles and responsibilities. The scenario also includes the importance of biosecurity in the food/feed industry and the results and impact of product recall due to intentional contamination.
The FDA recognizes the importance of pre-event coordination, collaboration, and communication, in addition to horizontal and vertical food emergency response plan integration, in mitigating the outcomes of a large scale food emergency. Accordingly, the FDA encourages government agencies using the FREE-B toolkit to coordinate and collaborate with neighboring jurisdictions, private sector partners, academia and Federal partners in the planning of an exercise contained within the FREE-B, in order to further examine and assess the cross-jurisdiction integration of existing food emergency response plans. Within the FREE-B is a reference/resources guide that provides links to tools and resources that can assist in Food and Agriculture Sector related emergency preparedness and response guidance.
The overarching objectives of FREE-B are to:
- Cultivate professional skills by learning how to work with dynamic, ad-hoc teams facing critical food emergency incidents that threaten the safety of the public;
- Assess readiness (agency, facility, profession, department, authority, etc) to effectively address a food contamination incident;
- Define roles and interactions with partners;
- Understand the purpose and objectives of federal, state, local and industry organizations and how each provides resources to address different aspects of food contamination scenarios; and/or
- Take appropriate, timely and effective steps to remediate emergency situations that are caused by intentional or unintentional acts.