CORE focuses on foodborne illness detection
Monday, Aug 19th 2013

In cold storage, it's important to have temperature monitoring to keep food products in the appropriate conditions to stave off potential foodborne illnesses. Bacteria is always present with various items, however, maintaining a proper freezing environment and cooking the products thoroughly can help prevent the diseases.

While there are several bacterial strains that routinely receive headlines, information about current outbreaks can be difficult to relay to the public due to the unknown nature of many cases. Many illnesses go unreported or the results don't reveal a single food product that was the cause, according to Food Safety News. Most outbreaks that have food recalled have been tested and verified, however, the work potentially expanded across multiple states and numerous weeks to get the information. The FDA has the Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network (CORE) which focuses solely on solving illnesses and is made up of Signals, Response and Post-Response teams to accurately and efficiently deal with the diseases.

"It's seasonal for us, as outbreaks tend to be," said Ashley Grant, an epidemiologist for CORE's Signals team. "Right now, we are in the peak of our season, so we probably have about eight to 10 on our plate at any given time in summer and spring months. As we get into the fall and winter, we probably have about five a week."

The situation becomes more complicated when there is lag time in receiving information and dwindling public health resources. A product's short shelf life can also make it increasingly difficult to get a sample to verify the cause, according to Food Safety News. While the process is challenging, CORE is dedicated to tracking down the source all the way to the specific harmful ingredient, if possible.

Common outbreaks can be prevented
There are numerous bacterial strands that can be harmless when the food is properly stored and cooked and environmental control systems are used. Some of the most common foodborne illnesses according to experts include:

  • Salmonella
  • E. Coli
  • Listeria
  • Botulism
  • Norovirus
  • Staph

While some of the items on the list can come from other sources as well as food, it's still important to understand how to prepare meals in order to ensure that people are not harmed from the potential diseases.

One of the most common ways to contract the illness is cross-contamination. Using the same tools to prepare two different foods, specifically raw meat, without washing and sanitizing the utensils can transmit the bacteria from the meat to any other product, according to The University of Rhode Island. Mixing raw and cooked foods or cooking the foot inadequately is also a major cause of foodborne illness. Ensuring that the products are made appropriately will reduce the bacteria to safe levels for consumption. Hygiene is also important to observe. Infection can be spread through touching food without washing hands and can cause foodborne illness in everyone who eats it.

Foodborne illness can cause panic across communities when the source is still unknown. However, with CORE's concentrated effort, there is a possibility that more outbreaks will be revealed in a quicker manner than before. Even if outbreaks aren't apparent, properly preparing food will ensure that the amount of cases are significantly reduced.