Food Safety and Nutrition

Outbreak Investigations!
The first of two web seminars on the topic of Food Safety and Nutrition was held on Thursday, April 26, 2007, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. The presenter was Dr. Patrick McCarthy, Epidemiologist from the Office of Food Defense, Communication, and Emergency Response, at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. In this seminar, Dr. McCarthy talked about outbreak investigations.

Dr. McCarthy defined the Traceback process as the process followed by food scientists during an outbreak investigation to track food items back to their source. Dr. McCarthy started the presentation talking about the different foods the USDA and the FDA regulate and investigate. There are millions of cases of foodborne illnesses in our country every year, most of them caused by viruses (67%). Dr. McCarthy also talked about surveillance, tracebacks, and a specific outbreak caused by spinach in 2006. All participants received a copy of NSTA's SciGuide about Science and Our Food Supply, grades 5-8.

Forty-two (42) participants were present at the live Web Seminar in addition to the presenter and the NSTA staff. Participating educators represented the states of Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. One participant attended from Washington DC.

Here are some comments provided by the participants at the end of the Web Seminar:
  • "This content will help answer students questions about food safety and how
    these cases are tracked."
  • "It answered some general questions about recent events and discussed the process
    of determining food-borne illnesses."
  • "Everyone eats without thinking. This gave me some great info for my
    Philosophy of Science class that I teach. We can discuss the problems
    surrounding feeding large populations."
  • "I found the statistical portion of the presentation to be most helpful. I
    plan to download said software for future reference for myself and I plan to
    pass it on to our A & P teacher in my school district."

Thanks to the participants and the presenter for the learning opportunity, the interactions, and a job well done!


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Underwritten in part by FDA