PULSENET: A PROGRAM TO DETECT AND TRACK FOOD CONTAMINATION EVENTS

KARA L. F. COOPER, DUNCAN R. MACCANNELL, AND EFRAIN M. RIBOT

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia

1 INTRODUCTION

An estimated 76 million cases of foodborne illness occur each year in the United States [1], with many more that likely go unreported. The striking incidence of foodborne disease highlights the importance of effective surveillance for the rapid detection of outbreak clusters, and the role that these programs have in maintaining the safety of our food supply [2–5]. In recent years, a number of well-publicized outbreaks have been associated with widely distributed food products. Each outbreak underscores the potential vulnerability of our food supplies to microbial contamination, the threat to public health, and the potential impact to national and international security.

Contamination can occur at any stage of food production, from the originating farm or producer, through processing, packaging, shipping and storage, all the way to the consumer's table. Although changes in regulation, education, and technology over the course of the past century have resulted in an overall improvement in the safety of the foods we eat [2, 4], changing dietary habits and demand for increased variety and seasonality of many food products presents an important challenge to food safety, particularly when many foods are imported from abroad and/or consumed in an uncooked format. Today, many commercially ...

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