Stories From the Field
A food sleuth + a shopper card + a salami = Successful investigation
"A disease detective" is how CDC's Casey Barton Behravesh described her role in tracking down the source of a Salmonella outbreak in 2010 that sickened more than 270 persons in more than 40 states. And what clue unlocked the mystery? Something most of us have in our wallets or on our key rings—a shopper card that you swipe at the grocery store.
After the Washington State Department of Health discovered that many ill people shopped at one grocery store chain, they used shopper card information (with permission) to identify a food that all of the ill people had eaten: salami from one producer. A multistate investigation identified salami coated with pepper as the source, and the salami was recalled. Without violating the shoppers' privacy, the resourceful use of unconventional data helped CDC and its public health partners across the country more quickly identify the source of the problem and stop the outbreak.
For the original story and more information, see CDC and Food Safety.