Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar held a press conference today to announce new proposed leglisation to "promote a more rapid and effective national response to outbreaks of foodborne sickness." 

According to Klobuchar, the new act would, among other things:

  • Enhance the  Centers for Disease Control’s  (CDC)  foodborne disease surveillance system.
  • Direct CDC to provide more support to state health agencies, including promoting "best practices" in food safety investigations.
  • Establish a “Food Safety Centers of Excellence.”

This last prong of the legislation owes its origins to Minnesota’s own "Team D" [D for diarrhea].  Team D is a group of foodborne illness investigators from Minnesota agencies that have been previously praised here and elsewhere for being the first, and sometimes only, health officials to recognize foodborne illness outbreaks.    Among the outbreaks where Team D took the lead were the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak in 2008, and the PCA Salmonella outbreak announced this February.

As for the content of the legislation, its good to see an emphasis on increased surveilance.   Of course, preventing illnesses in the first place is always the first choice.  Still, the overwhelming majority of foodborne illness in the U.S. goes unreported, and therefore un-investigated.  There are lessons to learn and improvements to make with every investigated outbreak.   Until we stop foodborne illness outbreaks altogether, we are best served to rezognize those that do occur, so that we can stop making the same mistakes over and over again.