- Pew Charities has released a report urging several companies and government agencies to prioritize root cause analysis to help prevent food-borne outbreaks. On Tuesday, a report entitled “A Guide to Conducting Food Safety Roots Analysis” was published.
- Root Analysis is a problem solving method used to determine why and why an event, such as an outbreak of a food-borne disease, has occurred. According to Pew, it is commonly used to investigate aviation accidents and patient safety issues.
- The report looked at how root cause analysis helped other industries, how to prepare a group to do it, and how to effectively communicate the results of the analysis to stakeholders and monitor changes.
In recent years, due to a number of outstanding and widespread E. coli contamination with romaine lettuce and other leafy greens, it has been one of the key issues for food-borne disease outbreaks for regulators, companies, industry professionals and even consumers. If focusing more on root cause analysis can help prevent epidemics, then this may be a target for businesses and public health agencies in the future.
Learning about food-borne outbreaks will help you discover weaknesses in food safety systems, Pew said. The group noted that methods for investigating foodborne diseases are evolving, but the identification of the causes of food contamination has not yet been synchronized between the food industry, regulatory agencies, academic institutions and other key stakeholders. Food-borne diseases are on the rise in the United States, so they are more focused on finding out why they can help change that.
If outbreaks occur, the current standard in the food industry is product identification and recall, so no more consumers are contaminated. But for many, that’s not enough. Although the analyzes may raise unresolved issues, Pew said the results of the root cause analysis are “critical” to understanding what went wrong in the food safety operation, and so corrective action can be taken.
The food industry encourages them to focus more on its roots, as past outbreaks have resulted in financial losses from falling sales and wasted crops. This has also raised consumer concerns, which can make them a hesitant buyer once the breakout is complete. This guide is likely to be credible as Pew complied with it based on research in other industries and discussions with food safety leaders, including manufacturers and regulators.
The FDA is already stepping up its prevention efforts, especially for products such as romaine lettuce. This month, the agency issued an action plan to prevent and respond to outbreaks of leafy greens with various efforts, including enhancing water safety rules, education, and purification methods; priority of inspections; stricter consumer food safety standards; and the establishment of voluntary data confidentiality to facilitate analytical research and prevention.
Despite efforts over the years, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have detected outbreaks of 40 food-borne Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in the United States between 2009 and 2018, showing a confirmed or suspected relationship with leaf greens. As leaf greens continue to be a problem despite preventive efforts, the FDA is looking to work on the root cause analysis in the future.
The agency announced in January that the latest romaine outbreak had ended, but neither the source of the infection nor the root cause could be identified. However, the FDA says it will continue to investigate the underlying causes during this year’s growth period.
The purpose of the Pew Guide is not only to improve food safety by analyzing the root causes, but also to encourage the sharing of information and lessons learned from research. Last year, the FDA was criticized for waiting six weeks to announce an outbreak of E. coli romaine lettuce.
Frank Yiannas, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Nutrition Policy and Response in the issue and question accompanying the report, said in Pew that due to the long time it took to detect, report, and source the diseases, investigations have been conducted following the outbreaks of the Roma. ” challenging.” He said the agency, in collaboration with federal and state partners, is planning to accelerate the reporting of foodborne illnesses and trace contaminated products to their source, leading to more meaningful root cause analysis.
“It’s time for food security to further develop this approach,” he said.