ATLANTA – The Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety division helps celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the national Rapid Response Team framework, which was established through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In recent years, emergency response operations – including food-related incidents – have become more complex. An RRT helps local, state and federal agencies establish a more efficient, collaborative approach when responding to food-related public health threats. Georgia is one of 21 states with an FDA-funded RRT. Since 2012, Georgia’s Food and Feed RRT has helped respond to foodborne illness outbreaks, recalls, hurricanes, tornadoes, special events and more.
“Our goal is to ensure safe food in our state, from farm to fork,” said Food Safety Division Director Natalie Adan. “Through our state’s Rapid Response Team, our agency is able to quickly work together with our partners at all levels to collaborate on foodborne illness outbreaks and investigations. This includes our public health partners at the local and state level; federal partners like FDA, USDA and CDC; industry and academia subject matter experts, and the end consumer. Each plays an important role in the process when there is a food-related emergency.
“The RRT has helped us organize information and work better together, to more quickly address and mitigate food-related incidents. From recalls to illness outbreaks, hurricanes to special events like this year’s Super Bowl LIII, Georgia is prepared to work together to ensure the food produced and sold in our state is safe and wholesome.”
In 2008 the FDA allocated funding to start supporting a new network of state-based Rapid Response Teams. Over the past decade, the nation’s RRT framework has collectively responded to more than 1,000 investigations, including more than 700 foodborne illness outbreaks. Due to the collaborative nature working together across state lines, RRTs serve as public health teams that address the challenges of globalization in our food system.
During a food-related incident, RRTs are trained to coordinate responsibilities and align the response to quickly and efficiently protect consumers.
The Georgia RRT has more than 10 local, state and federal agencies that routinely participate in planning, training and exercises to support the state’s capability. Georgia has been involved in numerous RRT-related outbreak investigations, including those linked to fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry, seafood, ready-to-eat products and other commodities.