FDA, Federal Partners Develop Tools For Food-Emergency Readiness

FREE-B helps stakeholders respond to food-related emergencies.

Silver Spring, MD: The US Food and Drug Administration and federal partners released the Food Related Emergency Exercise Boxed (FREE-B) set, a Web-based collection of scenarios that will help government regulators, public health organizations and the food industry test their readiness for food-related emergencies, such as a human health emergency caused by an unintentional contamination of produce with E. coli O157:H7.

FREE-B is a compilation of five scenarios designed to help test and develop food emergency response plans, protocols and procedures. It will help food and agriculture stakeholders and emergency preparedness planners collaborate better with each other, neighboring jurisdictions, the food industry and federal agencies during food emergencies.

"Being prepared for any kind of emergency is critical to a rapid and effective response," says Michael R. Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods. "FREE-B helps people think about their own responsibilities in a time of crisis and how to best work with others involved."

The FDA worked with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to develop FREE-B.

"It is critical for decision-makers involved in a food safety incident to appreciate the varied roles each must play to reduce food borne illness, from data collection and analysis to trace back efforts to communicating with the public about how to protect themselves," says Beth P. Bell, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. "FREE-B will give stakeholders such an opportunity."

FREE-B is consistent with the Food Safety Modernization Act's call for coordination among federal food-safety agencies and the development of resources to help local and state agencies involved in helping to ensure the safety of our nation's food supply.

Through participation in any of the scenarios, stakeholders will:

  • Cultivate professional skills by learning how to work with dynamic, ad-hoc teams facing critical food emergency incidents that threaten the safety of the public
  • Assess readiness to effectively address a food contamination incident
  • Define roles and interactions with partners
  • Understand the purpose and objectives of federal, state, local and industry organizations and how each provides resources to address different aspects of food contamination scenarios
  • Take appropriate, timely and effective steps to remediate emergency situations that are caused by intentional or unintentional acts.

FREE-B takes a "whole-community" approach to preparedness. The term "whole-community" refers to the need for cross-discipline preparedness training for large-scale incidents through regular exercise and training, evaluation and plan revision.