Preventing Future Outbreaks
The ultimate goal for public health and food safety officials is not just stopping outbreaks once they occur, but preventing them from happening in the first place. Long-term prevention of foodborne outbreaks takes the actions of many partners in the food production chain, stretching from farm to table. Some prevention measures include quality assurance programs at egg farms, safe agricultural practices for produce farmers, efforts to keep shellfish harvest beds free of sewage contamination, inspection systems at meat processing plants, use of pasteurization, canning, cooking, irradiation, and other steps to kill pathogens in food processing, buyer specifications for food safety in food purchasing contracts, training for restaurant managers and food workers about food safety and sanitation measures, proper hand-washing procedures, and the importance of giving food workers paid sick leave, and food safety education for consumers.
Outbreak investigations play a key role in preventing foodborne diseases. Investigations may find new pathogens, new food vehicles, and unsuspected gaps in the food safety system. They can improve scientific understanding of how the contamination occurred at specific points in the food supply chain, if it may occur again, and how it may be reduced or prevented. Outbreak investigations also offer opportunities for different authorities and professionals to work together and may reveal points at which the public health system can be improved. Often outbreak investigations raise questions that need research to better understand how contamination occurs and how it can be prevented or reduced.
The result of outbreak investigations and additional research should be better practices in industry, regulations and enforcement by the regulatory agencies, and consumer understanding, all of which should reduce the number of foodborne illnesses that occur.
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