FDA Releases Plan to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
foodborne outbreak

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: FDA’s Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan (FORIP)

Overview: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a plan to improve the response to foodborne outbreaks.  

Location: United States

Population: 333.9 million

Food policy category: Food safety

Program goals: To enhance the speed, effectiveness, coordination, and communication of outbreak investigations, and to prevent future outbreaks. 

How it works: The Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan (FORIP) focuses on four priority areas:

  1. Tech-enabled Product Traceback: Traceback is the FDA’s process for identifying the source of contaminated food during an outbreak investigation. The FDA plans to request and obtain more complete consumer purchase data, facilitate and expedite how they receive data, and use more advanced analytical methods.
  2. Root Cause Investigations (RCIs): The FDA will adapt and strengthen protocols and procedures for conducting RCIs, standardize criteria for producing RCI reports, and expedite the release of findings.
  3. Analysis and Dissemination of Outbreak Data: The FDA will share data and work with partners, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), to improve transparency and identify pathogens.
  4. Operational Improvements: The FDA will evaluate performance and outcome measures and make adjustments as needed to improve the plan’s effectiveness. 

Progress to date: The FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), which was passed in 2011, shifted the focus from responding to foodborne illnesses to preventing them from occurring. That same year, the FDA created the Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network to coordinate its efforts to find and prevent foodborne illness outbreaks. The New Era of Smarter Food Safety launched in 2019 to establish a more digitized, traceable, and, therefore, safer, food system. In 2020, the FDA released its New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, which describes specific approaches to addressing food safety over the next decade. The FORIP builds on the work that has been done over the past ten years to improve food safety and reduce foodborne illnesses. 

Why it is important: Each year, approximately 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from exposure to foodborne pathogens. The FDA states that, while they have made improvements in recent years, they still need to streamline their efforts to identify contaminated food, remove it from the food supply, and prevent future outbreaks. 

Program/Policy initiated: The plan was released on December 9, 2021. 

Point of contact: 
Veronika Pfaeffle, Public Affairs Specialist, FDA
Phone: 301-310-2576
Email: Veronika.Pfaeffle@fda.hhs.gov 

Similar practices: Canada has a similar Foodborne Illness Outbreak Response Protocol to coordinate the efforts of multiple organizations in response to a multi-jurisdictional outbreak. 

Evaluation: The FDA will use performance and outcome measures to monitor the progress and effectiveness of the improvement plan. Updates will be posted on fda.gov and through a public webinar in early 2022. 

Learn more:


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