The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will provide a more comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach to address foodborne health hazards associated with meat, poultry and processed egg products.

The MOU is part of the One Health initiative, a concept that inextricably links the health of humans, animals and the environment. It embraces the idea that a disease impacting the health of humans, animals and the environment can be best solved through improved communication, cooperation and collaboration across disciplines and institutions.

“The FSIS investigation process identifies health hazards in meat and poultry products, and this agreement leverages the expertise of personnel from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to complement that process,” said FSIS Administrator Al Almanza.

The MOU outlines mutual roles and responsibilities for the training of personnel and the planning of interagency assessment of FSIS-regulated establishments as part of foodborne illness investigations and health hazard evaluations. The MOU does not modify any existing interagency collaborative work, which includes illness cluster and outbreak investigations.

“Our agencies work together on foodborne outbreak investigations to identify the source of illnesses and conduct epidemiologic studies. This memorandum will enhance opportunities for us to participate in assessments of FSIS-regulated establishments and other health hazards evaluations,” said Robin Ikeda, deputy director of CDC’s Office of Noncommunicable Diseases, Injury and Environmental Health.

“This agreement builds on the current working relationship between our agencies with respect to food safety and reaffirms our mutual commitment to a multidisciplinary approach to conducting foodborne disease investigations,” said Beth P. Bell, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.  

As part of the MOU, FSIS personnel have completed training selected epidemiologists, environmental health scientists and other subject matter experts within the ATSDR, the National Center for Environmental Health and the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

The training focused on FSIS statutes, regulations and investigation process. In addition, training included an in-plant food safety assessment. Following the implementation of the MOU, the trained CDC/ATSDR personnel will be available to assist FSIS in the interpretation of epidemiological data to identify the possible causes of contamination.

The MOU may be read here.