• Whole genome sequencing (WGS) provides insight into the genetic fingerprint of a pathogen by sequencing the chemical building blocks that make up its DNA and is increasingly being employed in food safety efforts. Since 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regularly turned to WGS to better understand foodborne pathogens, including identifying the nature and source of microbes that contaminate food and cause outbreaks of foodborne illness. For example, FDA reports that WGS was recently used to help match samples of soft cheese to the genetic fingerprint of Listeria monocytogenes involved in a deadly foodborne illness outbreak in early March 2017.
  • On September 22, 2017, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that it will host a public meeting on October 26 and 27, 2017, to discuss overall federal food safety agency practices and, more specifically, plans for collecting and analyzing whole genome sequence (WGS) data of bacteria isolated from official samples, including the state of the science and other issues surrounding use of this technology. During the meeting, FSIS also intends to discuss the Agency’s recent experience in using WGS as well as its intention to expand its use in the future.
  • It remains to be seen the extent to which WGS may potentially revolutionize the way in which food regulatory bodies – in the U.S. and abroad – achieve their enumerated food safety and public health goals.
  • For further information concerning the upcoming October 26–27, 2017, please visit the FSIS’s Meetings and Events page.