Use CIFOR Tools to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response

Sep 03, 2019 | Michelle Shapiro

Foodborne illness is nearly always preventable, yet according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six Americans gets sick from contaminated food or beverages every year, and 3,000 die.

To facilitate effective foodborne outbreak response across the country, local, state, and federal officials came together about 20 years ago to find ways to increase nationwide collaboration.

These initial conversations led to the development of the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR) in 2006.

The CIFOR mission is to improve methods at the local, state, and federal levels to detect, investigate, control, and prevent foodborne disease outbreaks. The council identifies barriers to the rapid detection of and response to foodborne disease outbreaks and then creates guidelines and tools to address these barriers.

Chaired by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists and NACCHO, CIFOR also includes representatives from the Association of Food and Drug Officials, Association of Public Health Laboratories, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, CDC, Food and Drug Administration, Food Safety and Inspection Service, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, and National Environmental Health Association.

Learn more about CIFOR in this video:

CIFOR Products and Resources

In honor of Food Safety Education Month in September, NACCHO is highlighting CIFOR and a selection of its many products and resources that can assist public health officials involved in foodborne disease surveillance and outbreak response and food safety industry professionals:

CIFOR Guidelines for Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response (CIFOR Guidelines)

The CIFOR Guidelines are a comprehensive source of information on foodborne disease investigation and control for local, state and federal health agencies. The Guidelines describe (a) the overall approach to addressing foodborne disease outbreaks, including preparation, detection, investigation, control and follow-up; and (b) the roles of key organizations in foodborne disease outbreaks.

CIFOR members have been hard at work on the third edition of the CIFOR Guidelines, which will be released in the next few months! Sign up here to receive updates on the new Guidelines, as well as other new CIFOR resources, funding opportunities, and events.

CIFOR Guidelines Toolkit

The CIFOR Guidelines Toolkit was developed to help implement the CIFOR Guidelines. It contains worksheets and keys to success designed to help agencies identify which recommendations work best for their jurisdictions. The Toolkit is intended to help state and local health departments understand the Guidelines, conduct a self-assessment of their outbreak detection and investigation procedures, and implement appropriate recommendations from the CIFOR Guidelines.

Rachel Jervis of the Colorado Food Safety Center of Excellence explained how she has use the CIFOR Toolkit:

“In my role, I’ve facilitated multiple CIFOR Toolkit self-evaluations. The meetings provide an opportunity for outbreak investigators to collaborate outside the frenetic pace of an outbreak investigation. The Toolkit and other CIFOR products provide a structure for agencies to reflect and strive for improvement. CIFOR products also allow flexibility to tailor each meeting to the users’ needs.”

CIFOR Foodborne Illness Response Guidelines for Owners, Operators and Managers of Food Establishments (Industry Guidelines)

The CIFOR Industry Guidelines are voluntary recommendations for owners, operators, and managers of restaurants and other retail food establishments (“Industry”) to clarify Industry’s role in a foodborne illness outbreak investigation. The Industry Guidelines and its tools help Industry take an active and educated role in outbreak response, thereby reducing negative economic impact to their businesses. This product was developed by the CIFOR Industry Workgroup, a public/private partnership of experts from government and the food industry.

CIFOR Guidelines for Foodborne Illness Complaint Systems

The CIFOR Guidelines for Foodborne Illness Complaint Systems are for local health departments looking to respond to consumer complaints more effectively. The guidelines include a comprehensive review of current foodborne illness complaint systems, guidelines adapted for multiple agency structures, and other tools.

CIFOR Outbreaks of Undetermined Etiology (OUE) Guidelines

The CIFOR OUE Guidelines include recommendations on “universal” collection, shipment, testing, and retention of foodborne outbreak specimens, even in the early stages of an investigation. Based on syndromes and specific outbreak profiles, the guidelines are designed to provide adequate specimens for second-tier testing and pathogen discovery should an etiology prove elusive. The OUE Guidelines cover both infectious and non-infectious agents.

CIFOR Food Safety Clearinghouse

CIFOR’s Food Safety Clearinghouse is an online repository offering food safety resources developed by state and local health departments, laboratories, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and governmental agencies in order to facilitate knowledge sharing across jurisdictions.

Watch this video to learn more about CIFOR’s products and resources:


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About Michelle Shapiro

Michelle Shapiro is a communication specialist for the Environmental Health & Disability team at NACCHO.

More posts by Michelle Shapiro

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