CDC and Food Safety

What to know

  • CDC provides the vital link between foodborne illness and the food safety systems of government agencies and food producers.
  • The Food Safety Modernization Act directs CDC to enhance foodborne illness surveillance systems through improved collection, analysis, and reporting of foodborne illness data.

CDC’s role in food safety

CDC helps make food safer by:

  • Working with partners to determine the major sources of foodborne illnesses and annual changes in the number of illnesses, investigate multistate foodborne disease outbreaks, and implement systems to better prevent illnesses and detect and stop outbreaks.
  • Using data to determine whether prevention measures are working and where further efforts and additional targets for prevention are needed to reduce foodborne illness.
  • Working with other countries and international agencies to improve tracking, investigation, and prevention of foodborne infections in the United States and around the world.

CDC and the Food Safety Modernization Act

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with implementing most of the laws, rules and guidance that are part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), but CDC plays a key role.

The act, signed into law in 2011, seeks to protect public health more effectively by strengthening the food safety system. FSMA focuses on preventing food safety problems before they occur and recognizes the importance of strong foodborne illness and outbreak surveillance systems. Rapidly detecting and responding to foodborne disease outbreaks is crucial to stop outbreaks, prevent them from happening, and ultimately decrease the burden of foodborne illness.

FSMA directs CDC to enhance foodborne illness surveillance systems through improved collection, analysis, and reporting of foodborne illness data. CDC supports FSMA with four key activities:

  • Creation and management of Integrated Food Safety Centers of Excellence with academic partners at state health departments to serve as resources for local, state and federal public health professionals to detect and respond to foodborne illnesses and outbreaks.
  • Implementation of activities to improve the collection, analysis, and reporting of foodborne surveillance data supported by guidance from a multidisciplinary working group.
  • Development and dissemination of guidelines to manage the risk of food allergy and anaphylaxis in schools and early childhood education programs.

Challenges to food safety

Foods we love and rely on for good health sometimes contain germs that can make us sick. These illnesses can be deadly for some people. More prevention efforts that focus on the foods and germs responsible for the most illnesses are needed to reduce foodborne illness in the United States.

Challenges to food safety will continue to arise, in part because of:

  • Changes in food production and our food supply, including central processing and widespread distribution, which mean a single contaminated food can make people sick in different parts of the country or even the world.
  • New and emerging antimicrobial resistance.
  • Unexpected sources of foodborne illness, such as flour and onions.