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2000 December Report of the Auditor General of Canada

December 2000 Report—Chapter 25

Exhibit 25.14—Collecting and Analyzing Information on Food-Borne Illness: The U.S. Experience

In January 1997, following a number of serious outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, the President of the United States announced a plan to strengthen and improve American food safety. One of the initiatives was to improve the information on food-borne illnesses in humans, more specifically to build a national early warning system to detect and respond earlier to outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, and to provide the data needed to prevent future outbreaks. This system would also provide statistics on these illnesses. Another initiative was to improve the information on the prevalence of pathogens in the food supply, namely to increase research to develop new tests to detect food-borne pathogens, to survey the food supply to determine the prevalence rates of pathogens and to assess the risks in the food supply. The result of this political and financial commitment has led to a better understanding of diseases entering the U.S., the way specific government programs are reducing pathogens and the overall scale of food-borne disease in the U.S.

To overcome the difficulties caused by such a large number of unreported cases of food-borne illnesses, U.S. agencies have set up a network of active surveillance sites. The collaborating FoodNet sites have a system to actively identify laboratory-confirmed cases of these illnesses and to perform surveys that more accurately estimate the actual number of people who become sick with diarrhea each year.

The FoodNet project measures the impact of programs aimed at reducing the pathogens in meat and poultry as well as identifying outbreaks that might previously have been undetected or treated as isolated cases

Source: Documents of the U.S. government and other sources