There is national interest in protecting public health by reducing foodborne illness from Salmonella in poultry. While industry continues to reduce Salmonella prevalence, the cases of human illness attributable to poultry remained unchanged. There is a need to better understand Salmonella levels and the serotypes most likely to cause human disease. Based on this need, mitigation strategies relying on quantitative and serovar data will be instrumental for improving food safety.
Data is central to reducing Salmonella cases linked to raw poultry. For poultry producers to optimize Salmonella control strategies in their supply chains and for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) to make effective, risk-based policies, data is needed. Individual companies, along with their trade associations, generate a large amount of important data relevant to Salmonella control strategies. These include improved live bird management, better harvesting and processing controls, and other areas where data can be shared to support science-based, risk-driven decision-making.
Bringing public and private sectors together is paramount. The University of Maryland, in partnership with the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences (IAFNS) and Structured Partnerships, have been collaborating with FSIS through a Cooperative Agreement1 to support data sharing. This partnership connects FSIS and the poultry industry to create a trusted, clearly defined space for the sharing of data—and to align on the "why," or the need for the partnership: a shared interest in reducing Salmonella illnesses in humans.
Given this common ground, the next element of sharing data is to define the "what"—as in what data needs to be shared to help inform more effective food safety policies. In a public-private partnership aimed at facilitating data sharing, both the public sector and the private sector must understand the types of data each stakeholder has to offer. A clear statement on the data needs by the requesting public sector must be crafted to promote transparency and trust in the developing partnership with the private sector. The definition of the "what," or the requested data, involves identifying data that would be ideal to have, but focusing on data that aids in understanding the "why" and supports regulatory policy-making.
Another element to support data sharing is the "how." While the initial answer may point to information technology systems, the true answer to the "how" is not developed by computer scientists or data analysts. The "how" is addressed through dialogue with attorneys in the partnering organizations. In our experience with public-private partnerships, it is critical to have legal experts engaged early and alongside the technical experts. Legal counsel is uniquely positioned to advise on data protection provisions with viable ways to share data between sectors. As Andrea Stumpf from Structured Partnership states, "The early inclusion of legal experts from a diverse range of partners, with a goal of building collective understanding, allows for the best, practical, and sustainable ideas to come forward."
This spirit of collaboration can be key to the success of public private partnerships. Caitlin Karolenko, Ph.D., from IAFNS states, "Collaboration between the public sector and the private sector is what IAFNS is founded on, and as discussions have occurred with diverse stakeholders on Salmonella, we are excited about how the collaboration will help identify the most effective management strategies and rationally prioritize those that should work best for risk management."
"University of Maryland, Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, is proud to support meaningful risk analysis work on Salmonella to aid in the selection of optimal control strategies as stakeholders continue to learn, adapt, and expand approaches aimed at improving food safety from farm to fork," says Clare Narrod, Ph.D., Director of Risk Analysis and Impact Evaluation Programs at the University of Maryland.
IAFNS and the University of Maryland have a long history of commitment to supporting public-private partnerships. Specifically, both are partners in the USDA Global Branded Food Products Database.2 "Heightened food safety regulatory standards, backed by science, are a priority for both the public sector and the private sector. We are confident that dialogue across sectors leads to improvements in public health and a reduction in risk for companies. Ultimately, our aim is to support science and evidence-based decision-making by all sectors and partnerships—including with industry, academia, and government—as the only way we can get there," according to Wendelyn Jones, Ph.D., Executive Director of IAFNS.
Janell Kause, FSIS Senior Advisor for Risk Assessment, said the agency is considering developing a process for FSIS-regulated establishments that are performing their own sampling and testing for verification of process control, including Salmonella, to regularly share this data with FSIS electronically. "Science and data are essential for effective policy-making," she said.
The development of a stronger and more comprehensive food safety framework benefits all. Controlling Salmonella in poultry can start to be achieved through proper identification of the "why." Once the purpose has been identified, public-private sector collaboration enables mechanisms needed to identify the "what" and the "how" of data sharing to ultimately help prevent foodborne illnesses.
- USDA-FSIS. "Constituent Update: FSIS Announces Cooperative Agreement on Salmonella Risk Assessments." July 1, 2022. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/news-events/news-press-releases/constituent-update-july-1-2022.
- USDA-FSIS. "Global Branded Food Products Database." https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/.