- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) intends to use the $30 million it received from Congress to apply genome sequencing to a program called advanced molecular detection. Their goal is to to better understand how food-borne infections spread in order to prevent them from causing harm.
- The first step is for federal and state officials to decode the DNA of all the Listeria infections diagnosed in the U.S. this year, along with samples found in tainted foods or factories.
- If this pilot project works, the CDC will use it as a model for a new way of keeping watch on food safety by applying the sequencing technology to try to prevent other outbreaks.
The technology is already credited with helping to solve a Listeria outbreak that killed one person in California and sickened seven others in Maryland. The technology helps investigators pinpoint the source, and time is of the essence in preventing additional people from falling victim to the food-borne bacteria.
"Genome sequencing really is the ultimate DNA fingerprint," said George Washington University microbiologist Lance Price. He also believes the CDC's move is long overdue. CDC's Dr. Christopher Braden, who will lead the work, concurs, saying, "Frankly, in public health, we have some catching up to do."
Better late than never would apply in this case. Going forward with this technology should help improve food safety. That is important, not just for those in the food industry but for everyone.