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Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response: Assessing the Legal Framework for Interagency Sharing of Information

Award No.: 
In Progress
Principal Investigator: 
Kerry Wyss
PI Organization: 
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and its members are uniquely positioned to investigate and identify processes for improving information sharing among state, territorial, and local health agencies and the federal government. Incorporated in 1942, ASTHO is the national non-profit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the US Territories, and the District of Columbia. The State and Territorial Health Agencies (STHAs) ASTHO represents are vital actors in the food safety system. State governments are the chief protectors and guarantors of the health of the people living within their borders. STHAs protect the public's health under the structure of the "core functions of public health" as outlined by the Institute of Medicine: assessment, policy development, and assurance. In food safety, this is demonstrated by the role states play in assuring the safety of the nation's food supply and in responding to outbreaks of foodborne illness. Together with other governmental agencies, STHAs help regulate food preparation, sale, and distribution, in addition to being primary responders to foodborne illness outbreaks. Unfortunately, information-sharing gaps and barriers between federal and state food safety stakeholders still hamper the vision of achieving a truly integrated prevention-oriented food safety system. Delays in sharing of food safety inspection and recall information has hampered the critical role STHAs play in collecting and responding to food safety-related consumer complaints within their jurisdictions. To address these gaps, ASTHO proposes to undertake the following activities under the National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD), Aim 4.0 Information Sharing: 1) conduct a systematic review and legal analysis of existing state laws and regulations relating to STHA authority to protect non-public information from public disclosure as necessary under a confidentiality agreement; 2) develop and distribute a survey of all 50 states, US Territories, and the District of Columbia to obtain additional information regarding protecting non-public information from disclosure; 3) conduct key informant interviews to gain insight into the interpretation of current laws impacting the disclosure of food safety related-information; and 4) develop case studies and other practical resources for STHAs on information sharing. Results of these activities will help improve the entire governmental public health enterprise by highlighting challenges in sharing critical food safety information between federal and state agencies. The information gathered will also help federal and state partners develop processes that enable responsible, timely information sharing, and contribute to a more integrated food safety system.
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