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OutbreakFoodborne Illness and the Struggle for Food Safety$
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Timothy D. Lytton

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226611549

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226611716.001.0001

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From Fork to Farm: Honing the Tools of Outbreak Investigation

From Fork to Farm: Honing the Tools of Outbreak Investigation

Chapter:
(p.178) 7 From Fork to Farm: Honing the Tools of Outbreak Investigation
Source:
Outbreak
Author(s):

Timothy D. Lytton

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226611716.003.0007

This chapter details the investigation of a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul initially attributed to contaminated tomatoes but later traced to tainted hot peppers. The chapter examines the tools that make up the “three-legged stool” of outbreak investigation: epidemiology, pathogen testing, and product tracing. The chapter describes significant advances in these three areas, including the PulseNet foodborne illness surveillance system, the development of whole genome sequencing of pathogens, and the application of blockchain to product tracing. These dramatic advances have enhanced the capacity of public health officials to more quickly identify the sources of foodborne illness outbreaks and limit the spread of illness. The faster investigators can detect an outbreak, identify a food vehicle, trace it back to the source of contamination, and track it forward through the distribution chain, the sooner contaminated products can be removed from store shelves and consumers warned to refrain from eating them. Effective foodborne illness investigation is also essential to the cycle of public health prevention, in which outbreaks offer opportunities for feedback and learning that gradually improve the capacity of the food safety system to identify, respond to, and ultimately prevent foodborne illness.

Keywords:   Salmonella Saintpaul, tomato outbreak, outbreak investigation, epidemiology, pathogen testing, product tracing, PulseNet, whole genome sequencing, blockchain, cycle of public health

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