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CDC Media Telebriefing on 2008 Preliminary FoodNet Data

April 9, 2009, 12:00 p.m. EST

An audio recording of this event is available in MP3 format.MP3 audio file

OPERATOR:  Good morning or good afternoon and thank you all for holding.  At this time, your lines have been placed on listen-only until we open up for question-and-answer.  Please be advised today’s conference is being recorded.  If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time.

I would now like to turn the call over to Ms. Lola Russell (ph), please go ahead. 

LOLA RUSSELL (ph):  Good afternoon.  Today, we will be discussing findings from 2008 data reported by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance network FoodNet a collaborative project of CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food, Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and ten state sites.

Dr. Robert Tauxe, that’s T-A-U-X-E, Deputy Director CDC Division of Foodborne Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases.  Dr. David Acheson, that’s A-C-H-E-S-O-N, Associate Commissioner for Food’s FDA.  And Dr. David Goldman, that’s G-O-L-D-M-A-N, Assistant Administrator of USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service will be providing comments on the findings and future initiatives.

Following their comments, we will open the lines for the media to ask questions that may be addressed to Drs. Tauxe, Acheson and Goldman.  Each reporter will be allowed one question and one follow up.  I will now turn it over to Dr. Tauxe if you have any questions following this press conference you can call the CDC media line at 404-639-3286.  That’s 404-639-3286.  Or FDA’s media line at 301-827-9182, 301-827-9182.  Or USDA’s media line at 202-720-9113, 202-720-9113. 

Dr. Tauxe.

ROBERT TAUXE:  Thank you very much Lola (ph).  Good morning and thank you for joining.  And thanks also to my colleagues here at CDC and around the country for their excellent work.

Today, we’re publishing the preliminary data for the year 2008 from our Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network which we refer to as FoodNet.  This is a surveillance system that collects information on diagnosed illnesses from sites in 10 states about diseases that are caused by organisms commonly transmitted through food.  FoodNet conducts intensive active surveillance for the laboratory confirmed cases of illness.  It is designed to detect everyone in the ten sites who went to their doctor’s office, had a sample tested and was diagnosed with one of these infections.  We believe that FoodNet provides our best data for monitoring trends in the incidence of these diseases over time and gives us important clues about what things are improving nationally, and what areas are in need of additional work.

So what can we say by looking a the data from 2008 and comparing them with previous years?  The FoodNet system began in 1996 and comparing our current data back with the early baseline time period of 96 through 98, we see there have been important declines in the incident of some pathogens.  For instance, the number of the laboratory confirmed cases of infection with salmonella, campylobacter, listeria, e. Coli 0157, declined when compared with the early years of surveillance.

However, these declines occurred by 2004 and there really has been little recent change.  And when we compare the year 2008 information with the previous three years that would be 2005 through 2007, we see no significant change in the incidence of these infections in the most recent years.  Progress has plateaued.  This indicates to us that further measures are needed to prevent more foodborne illness. 

The most commonly diagnosed and reported illness was infection with salmonella.  The incidence of salmonella infections has declined a little since surveillance began in FoodNet but not statistically significantly.  Salmonella is carried in the intestines of many types of animals and transmission to humans can occur via many routes including a wide variety of foods.  People can become ill by consuming animal products, or other foods, contaminated with salmonella bacteria.

People may also become infected after being in direct contact with animals and their environments or by drinking contaminated water.  We need greater efforts at all stages of the movement of food along the food chain farm to the table to prevent from being contaminated with salmonella.  And as many of you are ware, we have experienced a number of large multi-state outbreaks of salmonella infections in recent years.  These outbreaks bring to our attention the need to prevent contamination of processed food products such as peanut butter or peanut butter containing foods.  And of produce items such as imported peppers.  Salmonella also remains an important contaminant of raw poultry and other meats.

The incidents of e. Coli 0157 infections reached a low point in 2004.  But then increased and has also not substantially changed over the last 3 years though the rate for 2008 is a bit lower than it was in 2006 and 2007.  On possible explanation for the increase since 2004 and the flattening since is there may be year-to-year shifts in the food vehicles that cause the illnesses.  E. Coli 0157 lives in the intestines of healthy cattle, and the organism can move from cattle to their environment, contaminating other animals or plant crops and water supplies.  And this really puts an emphasis on the need to control e. Coli 0157 in cattle and prevent its spread earlier in the food chain in addition to the effort to control contamination at slaughter and beef grinding.

Proper preparation and cooking of food can decrease the risk of foodborne infection.  FoodNet gives us information on the effects of the efforts to prevent foodborne infections and to help us direct our educational and research efforts.  We’ve provided more information this year about the incidence in various age groups.  The reported incidence of many of these infections is highest among children who are less than 4 years old.  We know that some risk factors for bacterial diarrheal illness among these young children from other FoodNet studies include riding in a shopping cart next to raw meat or poultry, visiting or living on a farm, living in a home with a reptile and attending a daycare venue.  We also know that breastfeeding protects young infants and should continue to be encouraged. 

And for many of these infections under surveillance, people – older people are at greater risk than are other persons for hospitalization and death highlighting the need for aggressive diagnosis and treatment in this age group.

FoodNet is a collaborative effort between CDC, the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, as well as ten state health departments.  This information we’re making available quickly to consumers, to industry, and to the regulatory government agencies who are all working together to improve the safety of our food supply.  Thank you very much.

RUSSELL (ph):  Thank you, Dr. Tauxe.  Dr. Acheson.

DAVID ACHESON:  Thank you, Lola (ph).  This David Acheson Associate Commission of Foods at FDA and I’m joined here today by Dr. Stephen Sundlof who’s the Center Director for the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and we’ll both be available for questions later.

I think the report that Dr. Tauxe has been talking about indicating the plateau that’s been reached in terms of foodborne illness underscores the need for a change in approach.  This change needs to address the safety problems around foods.  And really focus on how to prevent these problems in the first place.

The FDA is embarking on an aggressive and proactive approach in protecting and enforcing the safety of the food supply.  This is involving us in dialogue with our department HHS as well as Congress on potential new authorities, new resources, in order to allow us to adopt these new and more aggressive and proactive approaches.  Clearly, we are working very closely with the new administration and Congress on trying to address these issues.

I think another important point is FDA is working with CDC and USDA in terms of integrating our approaches with states and locals, recognizing that the food supply system, the safety of it needs to be dealt with in an integrated way, not just at the federal level but also involving the expertise and skills of states and locals as well.

In terms of specific initiatives in areas that we’ve been focusing on recently just to enumerate a few, in these recent outbreaks involving FDA regulated products we have been developing and using interactive Web sites and modern social media mechanisms to keep consumers updated about what’s going on, searchable web sites, widgets, wikis, et cetera. 

On the international front, we’ve been establishing a presence overseas to ensure the safety of products coming into the United States.  We now have offices in China, South and Latin America, Europe and India.  We are increasing our number of inspections, sampling and surveillance in order to identify problems and try to prevent them before they reach consumers.

To aid in this we’re hiring more scientists, investigators and inspectors, all of which will contribute to both the scientific risk based approaches, the investigations and testing as well as the inspection of food.  And on the response end, we have an initiative involving rapid response teams which is an initiative that we’re working on with a number of states.  We have these response teams as pilots in six states currently.  And these will allow us to move more quickly when there is a need for response to be more reactive.

So this just underscores the need to acknowledge the fact that this plateaus has to be addressed with the dynamic and proactive aggressive approach to develop new strategies to protect American consumers.  So with that, Lola (ph) I’ll hand it back to you, thank you.

RUSSELL (ph):  Thank you so much, Dr. Acheson.  Now, we will have Dr. Goldman.

DAVID GOLDMAN:  Thank you, Lola (ph) and thank you for the opportunity to participate in this media briefing along with our several Foodnet partners.  This annual report is not only of great interest but is of great importance to FSIS.  We don’t consider the results that are reported each year a major measure of the effectiveness of our regulatory policies that are in place for meat, poultry and egg products. 

We have often used these data to help us determine that current efforts need to be enhanced.  An example of this is that an initiative to reduce salmonella contamination in broilers or chickens resulted in part from the reports several years ago that showed that rates of salmonelosis had remained stagnant as reported by FoodNet. 

The fact that salmonelosis incidence has not decreased, despite greater than a 50 percent reduction in broiler contamination rates, highlights our continued need to refine our understanding of illness attribution data.  If undertaken similar efforts with respect to listeria monocytogenes and it’s contamination of read to eat products and also a contamination of beef products by e. Coli 0157 (ph).

So despite the significant reduction of salmonella in broilers we have undertaken some new policy development measures to address any commodity which contains salmonella of a sero (ph) that is of human health concern.  So we will be developing new policies around those issues.

As always, we take education and outreach as a important part of our efforts to reach the communities that are involved with us in ensuring food safety of meat and poultry and egg products.  For examples, we’ve developed podcasts not only in English but also in Spanish.  We’re in the midst of developing videocasts in American sign language for those who are hearing impaired.  We’ve recently enhanced our 24 hour food safety advisor called “Ask Karen”.  And we also have a our meat and poultry hotline that consumers can call into at any time.

We consider consumer education a critical way to engage our community and reducing foodborne illness in this country.  We will continue our strong collaborations within FoodNet to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness.  And I thank you again for the opportunity to participate.

RUSSELL (ph):  Thank you so much Dr. Goldman.  We will now open the line for questioning – questions from the media.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  And at this time, if you would like to ask a question, please press star followed by one on your touch-tone phone.  To withdraw a request you may press star two.  And once again, to ask a question, please press star one.  One moment for the first question.  Our first question comes from Elizabeth Weise with USA Today, please go ahead.

ELIZABETH WEISE:  Hi.  Thanks for taking my call. I have two questions.  One if you could tell me the states or the areas that have rapid response teams.  And secondly, I wonder if you could address some of the issues around this new vaccine of 0157H7 in cattle?  Thank you.

ACHESON:  Hi this is David Acheson from FDA.  I will certainly take the first part of that.  The states where we have these rapid response teams are Florida, California, North Carolina, Minnesota, Michigan, and Massachusetts.  And I would defer to FDA or CDC to speak to the second point.

GOLDMAN:  Yes, this is David Goldman with FSIS.  There was a vaccine for e. Coli 0157H7 in cattle that was recently released on a provisional or conditional basis by the animal and plant health inspection service that regulates those sorts of products for us in cattle.  As I understand it the initial studies have shown significant efficacy in the use of this vaccine in reducing the shedding of e. Coli 0157 H7 from cattle.  And this conditional approval will allow more wide scale use of this product over the next year.  And then it will be further evaluated for the possibility of wider use.

WEISE:  So when would that process – when might we see it in full commercial use. 

GOLDMAN:  It is in use now on a conditional basis, but practically what that means is it’s somewhat limited.  But I think that manufacturers working with some of the producer community to use the vaccine to gather further data that will be evaluated by AFIS (ph).  And so we will be working with AFIS (ph) to help understand the meaning of the data once it comes in.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Mike Stobbe the Associated Press, please go ahead.

MIKE STOBBE:  Hi.  Thanks for taking the questions.  Two questions, actually.  The first one is it four years now or five years that the plateaus has endured?

And second, could you contrast produce with meat in terms of the source of those infections and the proportion of pieces that are being caused by those two types?

TAUXE:  Yes, this is Dr. Tauxe at CDC.  I think what we’re reporting here is that there’s been no change over really the last four years.  I think last year we did a similar analysis that went back even to 2004.  It varies a little bit by pathogen but basically we’ve seen little significant change since 2004, now.  Your second question was about I think the relative contribution of produce versus meat and poultry was that the basic question?

STOBBE:  That’s right.  And whether the contributions are changing through the years?

TAUXE:  I think that’s a question about how one would attribute the burden of foodborne illness across these different commodities and that’s actually a – it sounds like it would be straight forward.  It’s quite a complicated thing to answer.  And we are deep in an estimation of that but have not completed it.

It is clear that the large outbreaks in recent years have included a wider variety of produce items and that we are seeing more large outbreaks due to produce, fresh produce, than we’re seeing in the past decades.  And so judging by the outbreaks, the produce is a more important contributor to the overall problem than it used to be.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question is from Brian Thompson (ph), Kansas Public Radio, please go ahead.

BRIAN THOMPSON (ph):  Thank you.  I wish I could be more specific about this but I remember reading some criticism that the food safety system favors producers and manufacturers over consumers in the way alerts are handled and that sort of thing.  I wonder if you could comment on that?

ACHESON:  This is David Acheson at FDA, I’ll take the first shot at that.  I would certainly refute that allegation right out of the gate.  I think we spend an enormous amount of time and effort to try ensure consumers have appropriate and accurate information.  That’s sometimes a challenge.  And I think we’ve seen that recently with I think the very latest consumer advice we put out with regard to pistachios.  When we were – became aware that we got pistachios that were on the market in the United States that were likely contaminated with salmonella had no idea of which pistachios products they were in and put out a very broad advice to consumers in terms of avoiding pistachios and not to throw them out just to leave them on the shelf while we were figuring this out in order to avoid people getting exposed to salmonella and contracting salmonelosis.

As I said in a couple of my opening comments, we’ve established much more interactive sites to try to reach consumers. Another example is just a couple of weeks ago we had a recall on the west coast of the United States that was focused on dry spices very much with an ethnic orientation in terms of the distribution of the spice supplier.  So we reached out to local organizations in the four or five states on the west coast who were implicated by this where we’ve seen illness.  So informing consumers is absolutely key.  Having said that, we work with the industry in order to get the recall done, to get the recall done, to get the information accurate, to focus it down, identify where the problems were, issue guidance, and where necessary seek new regulatory authorities to – or make changes to current authorities in order to address those problems.  So it’s a multifaceted approach but consumers are, I would say, the top of our priority list.

THOMPSON (ph):  If I could ask another question, how much of the numbers here is attributable to actual incidents.  And how much of this might be simply explained by the fact that people are more aware now that diarrheal illnesses are quite often linked to food.  And so there’s more reporting from that standpoint.

TAUXE:  Yes, this is Dr. Tauxe at CDC.  One of the things that we did when we first set up FoodNet was make sure that we could be able to answer that kind of question.  That is if we saw changes or if we saw lack of changes, would it be due to people being more likely to go see their physicians or more likely to get cultured, or would it be a real change.  And to answer that, we do periodic surveys of the population asking them about the last time they had a diarrheal illness and did they go see a physician and was it culture obtained. 

So we have been monitoring trends in that kind of behavior since the beginning, since 1996.  And we have not seen a change in that over years.  So we are quite sure that the changes or the lack of changes that we’re seeing are not due to changes in whether people or more less likely to see a physician in the first place.  It was an issue we thought about at the beginning and built that in.

RUSSELL (ph):  Thank you.

GOLDMAN:  Excuse me, this is David Goldman from FSIS.  I’d like to address the caller’s first question about the balance of industry versus consumer issues.  FSIS has made significant changes in our approach to outbreaks of foodborne illness and especially those that might eventually lead to a recall.  We’ve developed a policy around issuing consumer alerts in the absence of specific information that might lead to recall.  So that even though we don’t have specific information that identifies a particularly establishment that might have contributed to an illness outbreak we still have the ability to issue consumer alerts and have done so in order to let the public know about the problem in the food supply that we regulate.

In addition in the past year or so we have passed a new rule which now allows us to publish the names of retail establishments a we gather information during what we call recall effectiveness checks. So we are no publishing information that has been requested for some time by consumers.  This is true for the – what we call the class one recalls those with significant propensity to cause human illness.  And recently, and also recently we have begun publishing the names of some producers of products who have rates of salmonella contamination that we find are not acceptable and we publish those on our Web site.  So we have made significant changes.  Those are just a few examples over the past several years to try to strike a balance between consumer interest and interest of the industry.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question come from Gardiner Harris New York Times, please go ahead.

GARDINER HARRIS:  Hi.  I was hoping you guys could help me with sort of a broader question about whether the food supply and I don’t know if you can use the word industrialization but the sort of growing industrialization of the food supply has made it more safe or less safe.  And if you could take you know tackle the question from a somewhat broader timeline than you have with FoodNet.  In other words, if we sort of look at the post World War II period is it sort of obvious from other things that you look at that the food supply is dramatically more safe because of pasteurization, chlorination you know all of those sorts and things.

And then focus down on the FoodNet timeline and helping understand it looked like in your things that clearly some things have changed for the better over the FoodNet timeline, campylobacter, listeria, shigella, but that salmonella and cryptosporidium have not changed over the is period of time.  And can you sort of tell me or do you have any guesses about why?  And can you put all of those together you know because some illnesses are better and some are not.  You know over this ten-year time period can you sort of more broadly say whether we’re sort of in approved states.  And if so, why?  It’s a very broad question. I’m really just looking for someone to sort of say you know is it clear that our food supplier is safer or not?

TAUXE:  This is Dr. Tauxe at CDC.  It is a very broad question.  And one challenge is that it’s actually hard to find systematic data that go back over really large periods of time without changing the nature of the information substantially.  But there’s no question that our food supply is much safer now than it used to be 50 or 100 years go, many, many things are safer.  Milk is pasteurized.  A lot of the water that is used in processing is much cleaner than it used to be.  Diseases like typhoid fever have essentially disappeared.  And many animal diseases have been controlled that used to come through food supply.

So there have been long-term changes that have been very important in a number of ways.

On the shorter term looking back since 1996, again, I think we haven’t tried to provide a single number estimate here but for a number of the different conditions that are being tracked there is a decline since the beginning – since the mid 1990s and as I said most of that decline was observed in the first year sort of the end of the 1990s and the beginning of this century.

So I think that at least for these diseases that are under observation it does appear that there has been some improvement in general over the last 12 years although we think that that improvement has plateaued in most recent years. 

But that’s an attempt at a broad answer.  I don’t know whether FDA or FSIS would like to also contribute.

STEVE SUNDLOF:  This is Steve Sundlof and I certainly agree with that Dr. Tauxe just talked about. 

I think you know some of the other things that I think that Gardiner was getting to these when he asked the question about the industrialization of the food supply and whether or not that’s a good thing or a bad thing in terms of public health.  And there – I don’t think there’s any one real good answer for that.  But as supply chains get longer and longer there’s more opportunity for introduction of contaminants or other things that can have a public health effect.  But all of those can be managed and can be managed very well but it does take a good preventive effort on the part of industry to make sure that happens.

The other thing is that the distribution system is now such that one problem occurring in even one single ingredient in a food can have very wide distribution if that you know if it’s a large company that distributes nationally or internationally.  So those are some of the problems that I think we see as the result of consolidation and industrialization.

On the other hand, when food was produced locally, we had local outbreaks but there may have been many more of those local outbreaks in number that didn’t have as wide a scope.  So, again, these are some of the trade offs, I think, that occur when the supply chain becomes very long and complex as it has and distribution systems are much more global than they used to be in the past.  But once again, I want to reiterate that these – all of these problems that it have talked about with globalization all can be managed very effectively.  And we have lots and lots of examples of companies that have excellent systems in place to trap any contamination that may occur in their supply chain before it gets to the consumer.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Richard Knox, National Public Radio, please go ahead.

RICHARD KNOX:  Hi, thanks very much.  I wonder whether you have any analysis of where the system is breaking down?  Specifically I mean maybe it would be better to focus on examples, salmonella, listeria, e. Coli 0157.  And second and linked to that but what – how does that analysis what new resources that you need to seek from administration from Congress to address this plateau.

ACHESON:  This is David Acheson with FDA.  Let me take a shot at that to start with.  I think a more accurate term rather than say broken down is that the system needs to be modernized to address these challenges and changes that were discussed in the answer to the last question.

Globalization of the food supply and the rapid distribution changes.  One of the keys here is to look at the areas of greatest risk. So more emphasis on preventive controls, but preventive controls that are targeted to areas of greatest risk.  So you pick an example of a leafy green that’s produced on a farm on the west coast distributed to 40 plus state in a matter of a week after it is harvested.  The key there is to say where is the risk greatest?  Is it at the harvest, on the farm, during processing, during trucking and distribution at retail or in the consumer’s home?  And then focus your strategies and energies on that.

I think it’s become very clear that preventive controls are critical.  Legislation that was discussed with the previous administration and is certainly part of some ongoing discussion and language from the hill right now includes requirement for preventive controls, for plans to ensure that there is a risk based approach being undertaken in facilities.

That links into what needs to be modernized, targeted inspections, I think FDA certainly needs to do more inspections.  Its’ a key roll that the agency could do that.  I mentioned the integration with the states and that’s one of the programs we’re working on is how to build those systems more effectively.  But including foreign inspections, our globalization of FDA speaks to that.  And we are committed to doing more foreign inspections particularly in areas of problems. 

And a final example, when it actually comes to the point where you’re reacting to an outbreak or a situation is the need to get our arms around that quickly.  And that speaks to the need for traceability systems.  There isn’t a requirement for traceability.  That certainly has been proposed by some members of the hill to require traceability systems.  But I think it’s very clear that rapid and effective traceability systems help us in two key scenarios, when we were trying to trace back peppers and it took us three or four weeks that is because of the complexities of the system and the lack of a single traceability system.  That’s to trace back.

When we’re dealing with situation with peanut butter or pistachios where you know where it started from a firm in Georgia or from California.  But what you don’t know for several weeks is where it’s all gone that’s trace forward.  So I think there are many areas here where we simply need to modernize the system to address the changes and challenge of globalized food supply, rapid distribution and consumer demand.

TAUXE:  This is Dr. Tauxe at CDC.  I would like to just add a note to this.  Part of our system is the surveillance and ongoing case investigations and interviews that are done in our county and state health departments around the country.  And this is a system that has begun to improve.  We have new networks like pulse net which are improving the capacity to detect outbreaks but we think that the system could be even better and our foodborne division is planning to increase the capacity of several health departments so that outbreaks can be better detected and investigated in the first place starting from people who become ill to determine what it is – what is the food source and that outbreak.  And then coordinating closely with our regulatory partners to trace it back to a source and do something about it. 

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Bob Roos (ph) CIDRAP News (ph), please go ahead.

BOB ROOS (ph):  Thank you.  The question would be for Dr. Acheson.  You mentioned the rapid response teams.  I wonder if you could say more about those, about circumstances they would be used and that require an invitation from the state health department and are these all FDA personnel or are they teams of like federal and state people?

ACHESON:  Absolutely.  This is David Acheson from FDA.  These rapid response teams are being initiated by grants from FDA to these six states.  And we’re actually looking to expand it to three more states in 2009 at some point.

What they do is they set up an infrastructure within the state, using this money, using a combination of the federal investigators that are all ready there and state people.  A model that this was built off was a long-standing arrangement that we’ve had with the state of California.  It was something called CALFERT which has stood us in great stead when we’ve been trying to address leafy green outbreaks in the past, when essentially a combination of state and federal investigators will get to a facility very quickly, set up an investigation and inspection.  Or if you just don’t know which facility the problem is coming from but it’s within a particular state and it require visits multiple facilities or forums which has happened in previous trace backs.  It’s done as a joint effort.

This is seeing as obviously being a response element.  This is not a whole cadre of new FDA people being hired to sit in state offices. It’s providing the money to the states so that we can actually build the infrastructure for a more rapid and integrated response. 

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will come from Lindsay Leighton (ph), the Washington Post, please go ahead.

LINDSAY LEIGHTON (ph):  Hi.  Thanks very much for taking my call.  I’m just asking you all to just step back if you could maybe up 20,000 feet and give me what you think is the working theory for why the advances have plateaued.  And I think Dr. Tauxe you might have hinted at this a little bit earlier when you talked about how fresh produce now you’re seeing an increase in that as a vehicle for some of these pathogens.  Can you talk at all about what you think is going on here, the big picture?

TAUXE:  This is Dr. Tauxe.  I’ll take a first step at it.  I think my colleagues may also want to contribute.  Why has it platuead?  Perhaps we should be grateful that it hasn’t really increased.  We don’t know what the situation would have been had a number of initiatives not (INAUDIBLE) the last several years.

But the plateau for foodborne disease or for the foodborne diseases that are under surveillance is actually composed of some decreases and some increases in very specific problems that net out to be no particular visible change.  I think it reflects the complexity of the problem with many different foods become potentially contaminated and in need of concern about how to prevent that contamination including more fresh produce in the past.

It also reflects the fact that pathogens like e. Coli 0157 and campylobacter and salmonella can spread in the environment and can contaminate a number of different foods some of which are not seen to have been problems in the past.  And so our pathogens have complicated ecologies that may be changing.  We find that we have little information about that and it’s an area that remains of deep concern and in need of further investigation.

And finally, I think our food industry is also a complicated and changing arena with a variety of different components and a variety of different suppliers from all over the world.  It’s complicated.  And it’s continuing.  And I think it is something that I’m optimistic with coordinated efforts can be better controlled in the future.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Craig Schneider the Atlanta Journal, please go ahead.

CRAIG SCHNEIDER:  I wanted to ask, I understand that Georgia was among the ten states that were studied as part of this.  And, of course, food safety has become a bigger and bigger issue here since the salmonella outbreak, whether or not when you say for the fifth year in a row government and industry have failed to make any real progress if indeed you found that applied to Georgia?

TAUXE:  This is Dr. Tauxe.  I think the question – there’s a little bit of variety from one state to another.  Different states have a slightly different spectrum of problems.  Georgia seems to have a little less campylobacter and a good deal more salmonella than other states. 

And I think that the overall trends for each state, in general, bearing in mind that they have different spectrums but the overall trends for each state resembles what we see in the network as a whole.  That is we’re not seeing tremendous control success in one state and real increases in another state.  We’re seeing general trends that are affecting all of the sites more or less equivalently.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will come from Georgina Gustin, St. Louis Post Dispatch, please go ahead.

GEORGINA GUSTIN:  Hi.  Thanks for taking my questions.  First a quick one for Dr. Acheson.  You said that there was a possibility those grants for the rapid response teams going to three more states this year, which states are those?

ACHESON:  This is David Acheson.  I don’t believe that those states have been chosen yet.  I’m looking at Dr. Sundlof to see if he knows?  No.  I think that that’s right now under consideration.

GUSTIN:  OK.  And the second question I had was about the legislation that would require preventative controls. Can you give us some specifics about what those preventative controls would look like and where they would be implemented?

ACHESON:  This is David Acheson, again.  I think the answer to that is going to depend on what the legislation ends up looking like.  There’s been a number of suggestions put on the table by different members of Congress, on the House side as well as on the Senate side.  That is still part of an active debate of what those might look like. 

I think when it comes down to a technical level, once the authority is granted and we know the extent of then obviously, the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and Office of Regulatory Affairs on the human food side instead of veterinary medicine on the animal side would place close attention to well, exactly what does this need to be focused on.  And how would those preventative controls work?

I think it’s going to be mission impossible to design highly specific required preventive controls for every different type of food that’s produced under FDA controls.  So I would anticipate that a lot of this is going to be at high level focused on enhancing good manufacturing practices.  And conceptually you could envisage a system where it’s not necessarily where it will end up where everybody is required to have a basal level of preventive control irrespective of what they’re doing, whether it’s quote a high risk food or a lower risk food.  And then in certain specific situations when we know there’s a good that lends itself to be risky at a certain point in the food chain that there’s an enhanced level at preventive control requirement.

That’s speculation on FDA’s part.  As I said, and I think the key message here is that this is a very active part of discussion right now and FDA is heavily involved in it.

RUSSELL (ph):  Last question at this time, please.  Remember, at the conclusion of this press briefing today that you can certainly call the press offices for CDC, FDA and USDA if you have additional questions.  And a press release is posted on the CDC press Web site.  Last question, please.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our final question comes from Mike Stobbe Associated Press.

STOBBE:  Thanks.  Thanks for taking again.  Dr. Acheson you mentioned earlier FDA is hiring more scientists and inspectors investigators.  Do you mind quantifying that some more?  I want to make sure I know what you were referring to?

ACHESON:  Absolutely.  We’re increasing that across the board.  I’m trying to remember the numbers.  I don’t actually have them right in front of me.  But I think in 2008 we were hiring I want to stay 150 or so more inspectors on the food side.  As I say, I don’t have those numbers right in front of me.

The Center for Food Safety certainly hiring many more scientists.  Steve, are you able to …

SUNDLOF:  Yes, we are hiring, I believe, it’s somewhere in the order of 32 additional scientists and consumer safety officers who will help with our compliance efforts in the next two years.

ACHESON:  So I mean that’s where we are right now with 2008, 2009 money.  It takes a little while to get people hired and on board.  But the trajectory here is to continue to increase on the inspectional side and on the scientific side because they’re both integrated and one supports the other.

RUSSELL (ph):  Thank you so much for your participation in the call today.  We will conclude this telebriefing at this time.  Thank you so much.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  This does conclude today’s conference call.  We thank you for your participation. 

END

####

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