On December 9, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan to optimize its investigations into outbreaks of foodborne illness, specifically regarding speed, effectiveness, coordination, and communication. These improvements will help reduce the number of foodborne outbreaks that go unsolved and ultimately bend the curve of foodborne illness in the U.S.  

The new plan will work in harmony with FDA's New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint. The plan will focus on tech-enabled traceability, root cause analysis, outbreak data, and operational improvements. 

A crucial part of the development of the outbreak improvement plan was observations by and recommendations from FDA leadership and staff across the food program. The plan was also informed by an independent review of FDA’s structural and functional capacity to support, participate in, or lead multistate foodborne illness outbreak investigation activities. 

The plan, which is focused on outbreaks associated with human food, is divided into four priority areas:

  • Tech-enabled product traceback, focusing on ways to routinely digitize the process of tracing foods to their source
  • Root cause investigations, working to systemize, expedite, and share the results of FDA investigations into the cause of a food contamination
  • Analysis and dissemination of outbreak data to increase the transparency of outbreak investigations
  • Operational improvements to streamline processes and create performance measures. 

In early 2022, a webinar will be held to educate stakeholders on the plan and to respond to questions.