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State health officials talk about tracking down food borne illnesses


MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) - It can sometimes be a mystery as to where a foodborne illness has originated, but county health departments along with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection are turning to old-fashioned sleuthing to get to the cause of illnesses.

Jill Ball, food emergency coordinator for DATCP says the state works hard to source those outbreaks when they happen. “We all try to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks in our communities. It’s my responsibility when a food safety systems fails, to assist industry in the timely removal of the adulterated food from commerce,” Ball says. Ball recalls a memorable case when an outbreak of E. coli that struck Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin was thought to originate from a Wisconsin-based meat product. Further investigation linked it to in-the-shell hazelnuts coming out of California.

Ball says the state steps in when a local processor needs help recalling food. "They may not have a recall plan in place, and that's when we step in and show them what our template would be." Bell says local processors that need help can turn to their local health departments when they have questions about food-safety, and setting up a recall plan should an accident occur.

At the core, though, Ball says one simple rule can stop most cases of food poisoning: Wash your hands. "20 seconds, rubbing briskly, rinse, then dry. And the key is soap."

ON THE WEB: datcp.wi.gov

Listen to the extended interview with Ball here.