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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011 Dec 23;60(50):1701-4.

Food safety epidemiology capacity in state health departments--United States, 2010.


In 2002, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) conducted its first national food safety epidemiology capacity assessment, which provided the basis for development of minimum performance standards to guide state and local foodborne disease control programs. During April 2010, CSTE sent states a follow-up, web-based questionnaire to gather information about food safety-related workforce training and education, epidemiology and laboratory capacity, and information technology (IT) to support surveillance. This report summarizes the results of the assessment, which found that in 2010, states reported a need for 304 more full-time equivalent (FTE) employees working in food safety to reach full program capacity, with the greatest demand for master's degree-level epidemiologists (50% of demand). Barriers to investigating foodborne outbreaks reported most often by states included delayed notification of the outbreak (reported by 41 states), lack of a sufficient number of foodborne safety staff members (29 states), lower prioritization of investigations (27 states), lack of ability to pay overtime (20 states), and lack of adequate epidemiology expertise (12 states). Strategies should be developed to increase the number of food safety staff members and enhance their training opportunities, address gaps in IT, and improve the relationship between state and local health departments and federal agencies collaborating on responses to foodborne disease outbreaks.

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