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  1. Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness

How the FDA Uses Traceback to Respond to Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

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Every year the FDA responds to dozens of foodborne outbreaks, but what does that mean? What are the steps the FDA and other public health agencies take to determine the source of a foodborne illness outbreak and protect public health? 

In a video and infographic, the FDA provides an overview of the traceback process used to examine the complex path of food as it travels through the supply chain. Typically, in a traceback investigation, investigators trace food that ill people report eating all the way back to a farm or production facility. Finding commonalities in the supply chains of foods eaten by ill people helps investigators zero in on a potential source of the outbreak. Traceback is one tool used by FDA investigators during the many steps taken by the agency along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local, state, and international public health authorities to respond to outbreaks in FDA-regulated food products.

The video explores how the CDC works with public health authorities to learn more about what might be making consumers sick, and then if an FDA-regulated food product is identified, how the FDA investigates the cause of the outbreak and works with industry to remove any potentially contaminated product from store shelves. The FDA, CDC, and local and state partners also work together to warn the public, as appropriate, and to help prevent additional illnesses.

Infographic (PDF)

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