The Colorado Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence sponsored its first Foodborne Outbreak Challenge this spring at the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH). Multidisciplinary students from all three campuses of the ColoradoSPH were challenged to collaborate, understand the challenges with food safety, and network with health professionals. ”The Foodborne Outbreak Challenge was a great opportunity to collaborate with students from other disciplines/campuses. We participated in a well-organized, mock scenario of investigating and solving a foodborne outbreak as well as put forth solutions to prevent future outbreaks,” said Catherine Davis, a ColoradoSPH student on the winning team.

The event was broken up into three main segments. During the first part of the day ColoradoSPH students from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado State University (CSU), and University of Northern Colorado (UNC) were assigned to teams to determine the etiology (or cause) of the outbreak, identify the food vehicle, and the contamination source. The second part of the day focused on the development of food safety interventions, and during the final segment of the day, teams presented their proposals to a panel of expert judges. The winning teams were awarded scholarships from EpiX Analytics (1st place) and the Colorado Beef Council (2nd place). Catherine Davis (CSU-MPH), Caroline Ledbetter (CU-MPH), and Maggie Weinroth (CSU-MS) were first place winners; Kaityln Chorbi (CU-Cert), Karam Ahmad (CSU-MPH), and Rachel Murphy (CSU-MS) were second place winners.

When reflecting on his experience at the event, Karam Ahmad said, “The food outbreak challenge was a great sort of real-life simulation of all the different things that can happen simultaneously during an outbreak. I enjoyed that each of our team members came from different backgrounds (Epidemiology, Meat Science, Animal Science) because it allowed us to use our different skills to tackle a very difficult case study. I was able to use Epi skills I learned in my course work to calculate relative risks and confidence intervals to eventually help us crack the case!”

The Colorado Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence is the result of a partnership between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Colorado School of Public Health. ColoradoSPH faculty members, Dr. Elaine Scallan (CU) and Dr. Marisa Bunning (CSU) serve as Co-Directors for the organization, and strive to build capacity to track and investigate foodborne disease. The Center is dedicated to identifying and developing model practices in foodborne disease surveillance and outbreak response. Providing trainings, continuing education, and providing a resource for local, state, and federal public health professionals who respond to foodborne illness outbreaks, the Center is one of six Integrated Food Safety Centers of Excellence designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).