FDA highlights its use of whole genome sequencing to track foodborne illness outbreaks.

  • FDA has a host of tools at its disposal to help track the causes of foodborne illness outbreaks.  In recent years, the Agency has been relying more and more on whole genome sequencing as an investigative technique.
  • In a recently-issued constituent update, FDA provided information about the Agency’s use of the GenomeTrackr network.  Essentially, FDA is leading a global effort to build a network of labs that are able to perform whole genome sequencing of foodborne pathogens.  The goal is to build a robust database of known sequences against which potential “suspects” can be matched to help identify the cause of a particular foodborne illness outbreak.
  • FDA’s push to use this new technology goes hand-in-hand with the increased attention being paid to global food safety.  Particularly as the Agency begins to implement concrete requirements under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), it will be interesting to see whether and how emerging food safety technologies will be incorporated into the future of food regulation and enforcement.