The University of Washington School of Public Health and the Washington State Department of Health are partnering to lead a new Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence. Designated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under the Food Safety Modernization Act, the Washington Center of Excellence (CoE) will join four existing national centers working to improve foodborne illness surveillance and outbreak investigation.
“We are delighted to be partnering with the Department of Health on these efforts,” said Janet Baseman, associate dean for public health practice in the School of Public Health. “The new Washington CoE will serve as an important resource hub for public health agencies across our region. It provides us the opportunity to develop and support the implementation of best practices in epidemiological and environmental aspects of foodborne outbreaks.”
According to the CDC, approximately 48 million people in the U.S. are sickened with foodborne illnesses each year; 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.
The Washington CoE will serve as a regional resource for training and workforce development for local, state and regional public health professionals in Alaska, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
The other regional center sites are located in Colorado, Minnesota, New York and Tennessee. In addition to providing training and technical assistance to help health departments better track and respond to cases of foodborne illness, the five regional Centers of Excellence also analyze and evaluate the timeliness and effectiveness of surveillance and outbreak response, perform program evaluation, quality improvement and/or other special projects.
“The Department of Health has demonstrated excellence in the identification and investigation of foodborne illness and outbreaks. Together with expertise from our University of Washington academic partners, we will lead a regional push to improve food safety and decrease foodborne illnesses,” said Scott Lindquist, state epidemiologist for the Washington State Department of Health.