When foodborne illnesses are linked to products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, the agency’s top priority is limiting harm to consumers with swift removal of unsafe items from the market. But FDA’s work doesn’t end there. The agency increasingly uses an investigative approach called root cause analysis (RCA) to identify how and why dangerous bacteria or other pathogens contaminated specific products and what steps could help businesses prevent a recurrence of these problems. The FDA publicly shares findings and recommended corrective actions from each RCA so that food growers and manufacturers across an industry can apply them to their food safety systems.
Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response, heads FDA’s efforts to reduce food contamination risks and respond to foodborne outbreaks. He spoke with The Pew Charitable Trusts about the importance of RCA in this work and cited a new Pew report that offers guidance for effective analyses to food companies and government agencies. His responses have been edited for clarity and length.