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Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues
Research
Aug 1, 2009

Informatics Tools for Food Safety and Defense

Abstract

Our national security depends on a safe and secure food supply that is free of contamination, whether unintentional or the result of a terrorist act. In December 2006, Congress and the White House passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), establishing the goal of near-real-time electronic situational awareness to enhance early detection of, rapid response to, and management of public health threats in order to minimize their impact. Meeting this challenge for food safety depends on our ability to collect, interpret, and disseminate electronic information across organizational and jurisdictional boundaries. While events such as 9/11 have elevated the need to share critical intelligence related to security threats, these events have also promoted the proliferation of multiple data systems and tools whose lack of interoperability hinders effective intelligence gathering and timely response. Further, most of the public health and food safety informatics work in the United States—from early detection of food-related outbreaks by local and state health departments to confirmation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through “fingerprinting” of pathogenic contaminants—takes place at different local, state, and federal jurisdictional levels. As a result, large gaps exist in our ability to meet the challenge of food safety in the United States with regard to PAHPA.


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