A multistate outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections linked to ground turkey in 2011 sickened 136 people, causing 37 hospitalizations and one death. The Pew Charitable Trusts' analysis of the outbreak found numerous inadequacies in the foodborne illness surveillance system that, if addressed, could help to prevent illnesses and, in some cases, deaths.More info
The concerns surrounding produce safety are issues that no single party can address independently. The simulation, in which teams communicated, coordinated, and made decisions, was designed to encourage building and enhancing a mutual understanding for the various standards implementation and enforcement challenges faced amongst the stakeholders. Participants worked within and across teams to better understand the cascading effects of actions on different stakeholders, and how subsequent actions and assumptions could compound or alleviate problems.
In stakeholder teams (see Exhibit 1), the participants considered the challenges of a future environment in which mandatory safety standards have been implemented to explore impacts on their operations, as well as impacts on others (e.g., within the supply chain, to end-consumers, to enforcement agencies). While each team contained a mix of participants, most participants were from the team’s actual stakeholder group (e.g., most of the participants assigned to the Federal Government Team were from actual government agencies). This team structure offered an opportunity for “cross-organizational” dialogue throughout the simulation.
The participants examined such key questions as:
- What are the challenges associated with implementation?
- Are such standards enforceable? If so, how?
- What resource outlays are associated with standards implementation (e.g., compliance and enforcement)? Who must bear the burden?
- How might such standards be modified to mitigate challenges and improve enforceability?
During the simulation, “moves” represented periods of team interaction. In Move One, mandatory standards requiring safety measures from pre-harvest activities through final processing prior to retail were introduced. These standards included microbial testing requirements for irrigation water, soil amendments, and crop treatments. Risk management planning for domestic fresh leafy green produce and detailed record keeping were also critical standard components. Equivalent safety standards were also put in place for imported fresh leafy green produce.
Move Two began with more stringent standards and enforcement, which resulted from an outbreak involving a leafy green commodity that caused several deaths and a large number of reported illnesses around the nation. New requirements around flood protocols and additional employee handling guidelines were included. Inspections and records review became a minimum twice-a-year requirement rather than only once yearly.
Through this type of engagement, participants were able to gain invaluable insights into each others’ perspectives.