provided several examples of recent technological advances that have enabled researchers to identify food contaminants in “real time” (a relative term in the food industry, measured by the length of time the monitoring agency has to act upon detecting contamination), as well as targeted sampling techniques that can boost the efficiency of food safety systems.

Besser, by contrast, concludes that while microbial monitoring has its place, particularly in high-risk situations (e.g., botulinum toxin in milk; see Chapter 4), a better return on investment is likely to be achieved through increased funding of foodborne disease surveillance programs. Notable among these is PulseNet, which tracks diseases through standardized pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) protocols (see Tauxe in Chapter 3 for descriptions of PulseNet and other foodborne disease surveillance programs). Another source of information on foodborne disease is captured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Consumer Complaint Monitoring System (CCMS), and is described in the second contribution to this chapter by Kimberly Elenberg and Artur Dubrawski. CCMS uses an algorithm-based tool that organizes and analyzes data concerning food-associated symptoms or foreign objects present in food in real time in order to provide early warning of a foodborne threat. The database is used to record, evaluate, and track all consumer food complaints involving meat, poultry, and egg products. Based on its proven ability to detect low-amplitude signals amid noisy data, CCMS appears poised to join the “network of networks” that constitute the U.S. foodborne disease surveillance system.

SYSTEMS TO DETECT MICROBIAL CONTAMINATION OF THE FOOD SUPPLY

John M. Besser, M.S.1

Minnesota Department of Health

Increasing concern about threats to our food supply caused by microbial contamination, either intentional or accidental, has resulted in the establishment of many local, national, and global networks to address the problem, each with its own function and acronym (GAO, 2003, 2004), as shown in Table 5-1. Although none of these networks by itself constitutes a complete surveillance system, each serves some part of a broader food surveillance effort. Such surveillance efforts fall into two main categories: (a) those involving direct detection of microbial pathogens in food ingredients, products, or production environments (referred to as food monitoring); and (b) those involving the collection of human or animal foodborne disease data to identify problems in the food supply through analyses

1

Clinical Laboratory Manager, Public Health Laboratory.



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