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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Rapid Response Teams


What are the Rapid Response Teams (RRTs)?

RRT Logo

The Food Protection RRTs conduct integrated, multiagency responses to all-hazards food and feed emergencies in various states across the Nation. RRTs are developed through a multiyear cooperative agreement between FDA and State food regulatory partners. There are currently eighteen (18) RRTs within the Program. This cooperative agreement requires that these teams engage partners across disciplines and jurisdictions to build core capabilities and explore innovative approaches to response. The RRTs vary from each other in accordance with differences in government structures, geographies, laws, resources, etc.


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The RRTs activate in response to food emergencies in their states, drawing on the resources and partnerships developed through this project to accomplish responses characterized by improvements in areas such as interagency communication, established plans and procedures, and jointly trained and exercised staff.

View the RRT Program Overview here

The 2013 Edition of the RRT Best Practices Manual is now available!! To request the RRT Best Practices Manual 2013 Edition, or for other questions regarding the RRT Program, please contact the Office of Partnerships at OP-ORA@fda.hhs.gov. Access the announcement of the availability of the 2013 Edition of the RRT Best Practices Manual here.

Why Create RRTs?

The RRT programwas created to address the need for improved, integrated rapid response to food and feed emergencies. Multiple national initiatives such as the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (2007), formation of the President’s Food Safety Working Group (2009), and the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (2011) all point to the priority of this issue for the Nation.

The original (pilot) RRTs, awarded in 2008/2009, were tasked with developing models that can be used and adopted by other programs. For example, in 2011, the RRTs documented best practices for seven core operational elements (e.g., implementing the Incident Command System (ICS) in a food emergency) in the RRT Best Practices Manual, in a format that other groups can easily customize for assessing and improving their own capabilities. The RRT Program expanded to ten additional sites in 2012 and they have been tasked with building RRTs using the best practices and models developed by the pilot RRTs.

Who are the RRTs? 

The RRT program began in 2008, with awards being made to six pilot states: CA (SAN-DO & LOS-DO), FL (FLA-DO), MA (NWE-DO), MI (DET-DO), MN (MIN-DO) and NC (ATL-DO). In 2009, the pilot was expanded to TX (DAL-DO), VA (BLT-DO) and WA (SEA-DO). Nine new RRTs were added in August, 2012 and continue through FY13. The new RRTs are: RI (NWE-DO), NY (NYK-DO), PA (PHI-DO), MD (BLT-DO), WV (BLT-DO), MS (NOL-DO), GA (ATL-DO), IA (KAN-DO) and MO (KAN-DO). The map below identifies how nine states began in 2008 or 2009 (green) and nine states joined in 2012 (blue). In total, 14 ORA Districts have RRTs, where 1 District has 3 RRTs, 3 Districts have 2 RRTs and 10 Districts have 1 RRT.


Multi-Agency Collaboration

In order for RRTs to effectively respond to food emergencies, they must build extensive collaboration among multiple disciplines, such as partners in environmental health, epidemiology, laboratory, law enforcement, emergency management. This also spans federal, state, local, and other partners.

RRTs also work with other RRTs to build multistate and national tools and resources for the RRT concept. The RRTs accomplish these in many ways, including working groups, joint training, joint meetings, and exercises. This is further developed into documented tools such as standard operating procedures (SOPs), incident reports and the Best Practices Manual.

What have the RRTs Accomplished?

The nine pilot RRTs continue to develop their teams individually and as a national network. The program started when many state and local resources were encountering new financial and other challenges. However, they have taken advantage of both the similarities among their situations and their differences to create a model that can be helpful for a wide range of other partners. They have documented best practices in the RRT Best Practices Manual (described below), explored and tested new tools, and demonstrated the process and value of building partnerships to improve emergency response. 

Recent RRT responses to emergencies exhibit the benefits of strengthened collaboration and capabilities on the efficiency and effectiveness of their responses.

RRT Manual of Best Practices (RRT Playbook)
One of the most prominent accomplishments of the RRTs is the development of the “RRT Manual of Best Practices” (formerly known as the “Playbook”). This features tools to be used for program improvement in several key areas of response, such as communication standard operating procedures (SOPs), traceback, joint investigations and inspections, etc. The Manual also establishes metrics for rapid response capabilities that allow RRTs to assess their status, indentify improvement plans, and quantify accomplishments and impact. 
The second edition (2013) of the RRT Manual of Best Practices is available upon request to OP (OP-ORA@fda.hhs.gov). An overview of the RRT Manual is available here.
RRT Highlights & Successes
  • Notes from the Field: Listeriosis Associated with Stone Fruit — United States, 2014: An article published March 20, 2015 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) summarized the first reported link between human listeriosis and stone fruit, highlighting the epidemiological, laboratory and traceback investigations of the Minnesota and Massachusetts RRTs in response to human Listeria monocytogenes isolates that had PFGE patterns indistinguishable from Listeria monocytogenes isolated from stone fruits associated with a recall. The packing company that voluntarily recalled the stone fruits due to concern of Listeria monocytogenes contamination based on internal company testing was located in California (also a RRT state).

  • Washington Rapid Response Team Program: The Washington State Deptartment of Agriculture Food Safety and Consumer Servies Annual Report features accomplishments of the WA RRT in 2014.

  • Outbreak of Salmonella Newport Infections Linked to Cucumbers — United States, 2014: An article published February 20, 2015 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) summarized the epidemiological, laboratory and environmental health aspects of the outbreak as a whole, and in particular, highlighted the traceback and field investigation efforts of the New York and Maryland RRTs.

  • Rapid Repsonse Teams, Protecting Our Health: Blog post highlighting the Georgia Food and Feed Rapid Response Team

  • FDA and Texas Join Forces in Immediate Response to Oil Spill: FDA Voice Article from June 5th describing the Texas RRT's activation in response to a March 2014 Oil Spill and how the immediate response protected public health.

  • Outbreak of Salmonella enterica serotype Infantis infection in humans linked to dry dog food in the United States and Canada, 2012: This article, published March 1, 2014 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, describes how the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development detected Salmonella enterica serotype Infantis in an unopened bag of dry dog food collected during routine retail surveillance in April 2012. PulseNet, a national bacterial subtyping network, identified humans with Salmonella Infantis infection with the same genetic fingerprint as the dog food sample. An outbreak investigation identified 53 ill humans infected with the outbreak strain during January 1 to July 5, 2012, in 21 states and 2 provinces in Canada; 20 (38%) were children ≤ 2 years old, and 12 of 37 (32%) were hospitalized. Of 21 ill people who remembered the dog food brand, 12 (57%) reported a brand produced at a plant in Gaston, SC. Traceback investigations also identified that plant. The outbreak strain was isolated from bags of dry dog food and fecal specimens obtained from dogs that lived with ill people and that ate the implicated dry dog food. The plant was closed temporarily for cleaning and disinfection. Sixteen brands involving > 27,000 metric tons (> 30,000 tons) of dry dog and cat food were recalled. Thirty-one ill dogs linked to recalled products were reported through the FDA consumer complaint system. A one-health collaborative effort on epidemiological, laboratory, and traceback investigations linked dry dog foods produced at a plant to illnesses in dogs and humans. More efforts are needed to increase awareness among pet owners, health-care professionals, and the pet food industry on the risk of illness in pets and their owners associated with dry pet foods and treats. Personnel from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (a RRT cooperative agreement recipient) are credited as authors in this publication.

  • FLIRRT Featured in Florida Restaurant and Lodging MagazineThe FLIRRT is featured in an article of Florida Restaurant and Lodging Magazine! The article describes the FLIRRT and the role it played during the Republican National Convention (Page 31). 

  • Use of Global Trade Item Numbers in the Investigation of a Salmonella Newport Outbreak Associated with Blueberries in Minnesota, 2010: This article, published May 1, 2013 in the Journal of Food Protection, demonstrates how novel traceback methods (centered around the use of supplier-specific 12-digit Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) and shopper-card information) were used to successfully identify a single blueberry grower linked to cases when traditional traceback methods failed. This investigation demonstrates the emerging concepts of Crticial Tracking Events (CTEs) and Key Data Elements (KDE) related to food product tracing. Personnel from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (a RRT cooperative agreement recipient), the Minnesota Department of Health, and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health are credited as authors in this publication.

  • Use of traceback methods to confirm the source of a multistate Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak due to in-shell hazelnuts: This article, published February 1, 2012 in the Journal of Food Protection, demonstrates how traceback methods were used to rapidly test an epidemiological hypothesis and confirm in-shell hazelnuts as the vehicle in a multi-state E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. Personnel from three RRT cooperative agreement recipients (Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and California Department of Public Health) are credited as authors in this publication.

  • Notes from the Field: Human Salmonella Infantis Infections Linked to Dry Dog Food — United States and Canada, 2012: An article published June 15, 2012 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) featured the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). The article focuses on how a positive sample of dog food tested by MDARD as part of routine retail testing resulted in not only a recall of that single product, but contributed to an ongoing outbreak investigation and spurred additional testing by multiple agencies, which resulted in subsequent product recalls.

  • Accidental Consumption of Decoquinate Medicated Feed by a Michigan Dairy Herd: This article features the work of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and their laboratory partners at Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health (MSU DCPAH) to respond to accidental consumption of decoquinate by dairy cattle.