Leveraging Current Opportunities to Communicate Lessons Learned from Root Cause Analysis to Prevent Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

Melanie J. Firestone, Karin Hoelzer, Craig Hedberg, Carol A. Conroy, John J. Guzewich

Biblographic citation: Food Protection Trends, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 134-138, Mar 2018

Volume 38, Issue 2: Pages 134–138

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Foodborne illness outbreaks are the result of failures in food systems either to control known hazards or to anticipate novel hazards. Root cause analysis (RCA) is a systematic, analytical approach to identify the underlying reasons why an outbreak occurred. The ultimate goal of RCA is to uncover the systemic weaknesses in the food system that permitted its breakdown so the system can be redesigned in a way that prevents recurrence. Understanding the root causes of foodborne disease outbreaks is essential for a prevention-focused food safety system. Because the same or similar systemic weaknesses may exist in different operations, analysis results can be highly informative for many stakeholders, including food safety professionals in the same or related industries, personnel in regulatory agencies, educators, academic researchers, and consultants. However, the results are often either not shared at all or shared in suboptimal ways, limiting opportunities for learning. The 2017 International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Annual Meeting represents one way of sharing such results; in fact, this meeting featured a symposium on RCA in the food industry. This article summarizes this symposium and offers recommendations for improving the ways in which lessons learned from RCA can be communicated effectively to a broad food safety audience.

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