Welcome to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service podcast. Each episode
will bring you cutting edge news and information about how FSIS is working to ensure public
health protection through food safety. While we’re on the job, you can rest assured that
your meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, properly labeled,
and packaged correctly. So turn up your volume and listen in.
Hello and welcome. This is Sheila Johnson from FSIS.
Joining me is Dr. David Goldman, assistant administrator
for the FSIS Office of Public Health Science. A member of
the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service,
Dr. Goldman has been assigned to FSIS since February 2002.
He is also a family practice and preventive medicine /
public health physician.
Welcome to the program, Dr. Goldman.
Thank you, Sheila. It’s my pleasure to be here.
Today, we’re going to look at how FSIS works with its
public health partners to investigate cases of foodborne
illness associated with FSIS-regulated products.
An integral part of this process is the Public Health and
Epidemiology Liaisons, also known as PHELs.
Dr. Goldman, can you tell us a little more about the PHELs?
Sure. PHELs are public health professionals with
backgrounds that include epidemiology, veterinary medicine,
clinical medicine, and environmental health who work
together in a multidisciplinary team. They’re located in
our Foodborne Disease Investigations Branch, which is part
of our Office of Public Health Science.
PHELs are the points of contact linking FSIS experts to our
public health partners on a multitude of food safety
So, how do PHELs work with the Agency’s public health
partners to investigate foodborne illnesses that may be
associated with meat, poultry, and processed egg products?
The PHELs serve as our liaisons to state and local public
health agencies on foodborne illness investigations and
food safety issues, so often they are the first to hear
about a foodborne illness that might implicate
During a foodborne investigation, PHELS will assess the
epidemiologic evidence that implicates a particular food as
a vehicle for infection. And then PHELs work very closely
with our Office of Field Operations and the Office of
Program Evaluation, Enforcement and Review to locate foods
that have been implicated in a foodborne illness and trace
them back to their producing establishments.
PHELs also work with our Agency microbiologists within the
Office of Public Health Science to facilitate collection
and sampling of implicated foods to identify pathogens that
may be causing human illness.
It sounds like there’s a lot of coordination involved. What
type of information does FSIS need from its public health
partners in order to link food exposures to illness and
enable the Agency to take further action?
The data needs vary with each foodborne illness
investigation, but in general, FSIS needs information on
case-patients in order to determine the source and vehicle
of foodborne illnesses.
What type of information on case-patients do you need?
There are three general types of information that FSIS
needs. The first is clinical information such as the date
when the case-patients became ill, the symptoms that they
had, and when they consumed the products that might be
The second is laboratory information such as the test
results of the clinical specimens or food specimens.
And finally, the Agency needs exposure information, such as
the food history, food preparation review, and other
possible sources of exposure.
Thank you, Dr. Goldman, for your time today and providing
information on how FSIS works with its public health
partners to investigate cases of foodborne illness
associated with FSIS-regulated products. And thanks to all
of you listening out there.
Well, that’s all for this episode. We’d like your feedback
on our podcast. Or if you have ideas for future podcasts, send
us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about food
safety, try our web site at
Thanks for tuning in.