Global Networks Make Food Safer

Foodborne diseases are preventable, yet they commonly cause illness, disability, and death worldwide. Find out how CDC and global partners are providing countries with tools and training to make food safer to eat.


Think locally, act globally

We all deserve healthy, safe food, yet many countries lack basic public health surveillance and capacity building resources to identify, track, and stop the spread of foodborne illnesses. Once food becomes contaminated, germs and infection can spread rapidly through communities, even between continents. Acting globally means sharing solutions and resources throughout the world to make food safer for everyone.

sidewalk fruit seller in sierra leone

Food at local markets can become contaminated causing illness to spread rapidly through communities.

Getting food to the table is a complex process. Food goes from farm to fork and can be contaminated at any step in the process. A single dish may contain ingredients from many different countries. Food safety is a shared responsibility between producers, industry, governments, and consumers.


Working together to prevent foodborne disease

The Global Health Unit (GHU) within CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases (DFWED) coordinates international activities to reduce diarrheal diseases, many of which are foodborne. GHU strives to help countries strengthen their ability to prevent, detect, and control these diseases.

Finding the sources of foodborne diseases requires epidemiologists, laboratory scientists, and veterinarians to regularly communicate with each other and share findings.

workers in rice paddy field

Many people grow and process the food you eat.

GHU has helped countries such as China, build capacity to investigate foodborne disease outbreaks and set up surveillance for germs that cause foodborne diseases. The program trains public health workers in other countries how to detect foodborne diseases so they can prevent and respond to outbreaks.


China: Food safety starts in the laboratory and connects in the field

CDC laboratory scientists in Atlanta are working with CDC-China and the Chinese National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA) to adapt U.S. best practices in foodborne disease detection and response for China. CDC-China currently leads and coordinates the research efforts of PulseNet ChinaExternal (a member of PulseNet International). CFSA and its laboratory scientists have developed a sister network, TraNet, which is responsible for surveillance, outbreak detection, and response activities.  Like PulseNet-USA, TraNet will allow Chinese scientists to detect clusters of disease that may be caused by a common source, such as a mass-distributed food. And like PulseNet, TraNet will be able to detect clusters of sick people in different parts of the country.  TraNet can detect clusters by comparing DNA fingerprints of the disease-causing germs in a central database.

Global Health unit doing training in hospital

CDC scientists work with Chinese food safety partners in the lab.

The collaboration between CDC, CDC-China and CFSA means Chinese microbiologists and epidemiologists now have laboratory tools and methods to detect contamination problems in the food supply that might otherwise go undetected. The impact is clear: Better lab detection yields more data and a more precise identification of cases and clusters. This collaborative method is now a model for other sites in China. Strengthening laboratory skills is an essential step to make food safer—whether consumed in China, exported to the United States, or shipped worldwide.

What about consumers?

Foodborne diseases can happen anywhere foods are improperly prepared or mishandled—including homes, restaurants, or street vendors. Challenges to food safety will continue to arise in unpredictable ways, largely due to changes in the world’s food production, supply, and more imported foods.

Consumers face many complex questions. What foods do I choose, how do I cook and store foods, and how do I keep cooking areas clean? Consumers also may ask which foods, ingredients, and practices pose the greatest risk for foodborne disease.

Keys to Safer Food

Anyone can get sick from eating contaminated food. To lower your chances of food poisoning, consider how germs found in contaminated food can make you sick. You can take action to protect yourself and your loved ones by keeping food safeExternal.

Here are four simple steps to food safety:


Wash your hands and food-preparation surfaces often. Germs can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, and cutting boards. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.


Don’t cross-contaminate. Even after you have cleaned your hands and surfaces thoroughly, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can still spread germs to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate.


Cook food thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature:

  • 145°F for whole beef, veal, lamb, and fresh pork and ham (allowing the meat to cool for 3 minutes before carving or consuming)
  • 145°F for fish.
  • 160°F for ground beef, veal, pork and lamb, and for egg dishes.
  • 165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and ground turkey, and stuffing, leftovers and casseroles.


Keep your refrigerator below 40°F, and refrigerate foods promptly. Germs can grow in many foods within 2 hours unless you refrigerate them. (During the summer heat, cut that time down to 1 hour.)