Global Foodborne Infections Network (GFN)

Frequently asked questions

Last reviewed/updated
11 January 2010

What is the Global Foodborne Infections Network?

The Global Foodborne Infections Network is a capacity-building network consisting of institutions and individuals working in veterinary, food and public health disciplines committed to enhancing the capacity of countries to detect, control and prevent foodborne and other enteric infections. The programme promotes integrated, laboratory-based surveillance and outbreak detection and response, and fosters intersectoral collaboration and communication among microbiologists and epidemiologists in human health, veterinary, and food-related disciplines.

Why was the Global Foodborne Infections Network created?

A WHO survey conducted in the last decade revealed a lack of basic infrastructure for laboratory-based Salmonella surveillance in up to one third of WHO Member States. Recognizing the public health importance of foodborne disease, including Salmonella, and the need to enhance capacity for laboratory-based surveillance, WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Danish National Food Institute founded WHO Global Salm-Surv in January 2000.

Who participates in the Global Foodborne Infections Network?

There are currently more than 1500 individual members of the Global Foodborne Infections Network from National Reference laboratories and other national and regional institutes in 177 Member States and territories. The members of the Global Foodborne Infections Network are microbiologists and epidemiologists who work in public health, veterinary medicine, food-related services or environmental health.

What does the Global Foodborne Infections Network entail?

The Global Foodborne Infections Network has six main programme components: international training activities, the External Quality Assurance System (EQAS), the WHO Global Salmonella Country Databank, focused regional and national projects, reference services and communication. The major programme component is the international training courses. The Global Foodborne Infections Network conducts training courses at 17 sites around the world. Typically, 30-40 participants from 10-12 countries attend each week-long training course. Courses are basic, intermediate or advanced and cover a wide range of foodborne disease topics depending on the skills needed in each region.

To date, more than 80 countries have provided data to the Country Databank on around 1.5 million human isolates and 360 000 isolates from nonhuman sources to help provide a global overview of the epidemiology of Salmonella.

The External Quality Assurance System of the Global Foodborne Infections Network is one of the world's largest annual proficiency tests with more than 150 laboratories participating worldwide.

Why is the Global Foodborne Infections Network important to public health?

The Global Foodborne Infections Network vision states that, "Foodborne and other infectious enteric diseases are a common cause of illness disability and death worldwide. We believe they are preventable and therefore, place an unnecessary burden on society. Our vision is that all countries will prevent ancd control these diseases." Illness, disability and death from diseases caused by unsafe food are a constant threat to public health security as well as socioeconomic development throughout the world. Is there the necessary surveillance capacity for (inter)national outbreak detection and response? Many foodborne disease outbreaks go undetected in part, due to lack of training and communication between the human, veterinary and food sectors. The Global Foodborne Infections Network is working to reverse this trend.

What are the future activities for the Global Foodborne Infections Network?

The Global Foodborne Infections Network plans to further its impact globally by adding new training sites and projects in the Pacific, Africa and Asia. The Global Foodborne Infections Network activities will continue to enhance laboratory-based surveillance of foodborne diseases and result in improved outbreak detection and response globally, thereby reducing the global burden of foodborne diseases.

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