OAKDALE, MN / ACCESSWIRE / December 20, 2022 / Datastream Connexion has played a key role in partnering with government agencies like the FDA, USDA, and the Department of Homeland Security to use smart technology and help create a National Integrated Food Safety System. This system now actively promotes collaboration and coordination currently with 30,661 active users in all 50 states. Stakeholders participate within 3,255 active working groups on over 40 dedicated portals. This initiative has led to better food outbreak and recall coordination, standards, and best practices development, national training, and exercises as well as rapid team response to crises caused by all hazards. The end goal is to foster the development of stronger food safety cultures and increase the health and strength of the general population.
About 25 years ago, the scenario was starkly different, with each government agency storing information in compartmentalized database silos that delayed response to emergency situations like food pathogen-related outbreaks. One of the main challenges was that the primary state agency responsible for food safety was not uniform across the United States. Federal agencies would have to coordinate with departments of agriculture, health, environmental, or other multiple state and local agencies as well as universities using different communication strategies depending on the state they were working with. When foodborne outbreaks occurred across multiple states, this proved to be a problem for the FDA and USDA in the alignment of national resources and testing, leading to unnecessary delays that led to increased illnesses and fatalities with significant government and industry economic losses. Food safety infrastructure and laws had not changed for more than half a century. Stakeholders felt it was critical to integrate and modernize food safety information-sharing systems in the US.
On October 2, 1997, President Clinton announced an initiative to ensure the safety of imported and domestic fruits and vegetables. There was a focus on developing uniform standards, inspections, laboratory practices, training, communications, and enforcement of food safety standards across all the states in the US and for this, a technological solution was necessary.
Datastream Connexion was selected to work with stakeholders at federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal levels to develop and pilot a web-based portal solution. This web-based initiative, over a period, achieved sustained grant funding to build what became ‘FoodSHIELD’ – a platform that focused on secure communication, coordination, and resource allocation through cross-agency collaboration. Through this improved cross-agency collaboration, the different individual agencies were now able for the first time to work together in closer harmony for better implementation of food safety standards and response capabilities.
Initially launched as a pilot project funded by the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), the web-based platform proved to be a significant government cooperation success story. Through multiple administrations, over a period of 20 years, Datastream Connexion worked with successive government agencies and stakeholders at all levels to create and implement an information-sharing framework that highly enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of food safety and food defense initiatives.
The successful implementation of FoodSHEILD by Datastream Connexion led to demand from government agencies, associations, and academic institutions for similar web-based technology solutions applied to other food safety regulatory and laboratory challenges.
During this same period, the Clinton Initiative’s Laboratory Operations and Coordination Workgroup, comprising 220 laboratories, also came under the umbrella of a federally managed group of laboratories called the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN). The FERN felt that it was necessary to be identified with its own unique laboratory portal, so it contracted through the National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD), along with Datastream Connexion, to develop a parallel site that cloned many of the same features that were available in FoodSHIELD. In a similar manner, Datastream Connexion extended these capabilities to other laboratory networks and government regulatory programs by developing additional discrete portals.
The company has now developed more than 40 portals linked to or cloned from FoodSHIELD. These efforts have enabled Datastream Connexion to customize the platform tailoring it to the needs of different communities, whether they deal with public health, animal health, environmental protection, or homeland security.
This is a unique case of a public-private partnership. There have been instances of government projects in which private companies have worked with government agencies for extended periods of time. However, longstanding holistic technology partnerships like the ones that Datastream Connexion has developed that unify the federal, state, and local government resources and capabilities are very rare and attest to the effectiveness of this multiple agency co-funded model. To greatly improve national food protection, Datastream Connexion has leveraged systems-based communication, coordination, and rapid response capabilities aimed at developing uniformity in processes, training, manufacturing and retail standards, and other best practices.
Commenting on the contribution that the company has made to the development of smart solutions for government agencies, Eric Hoffman, President of Datastream Connexion said,
“Meeting the challenge of tying all of the multiple portals together, including FoodSHIELD, into a single integrated enterprise framework was one of our most important accomplishments. This framework called ‘CoreSHIELD’ facilitates integrated connectivity and interoperability between the many disparate portals which are cloned from or linked to FoodSHIELD, for creating an enterprise food and agriculture information-sharing ecosystem.”
Homeland Security also contracted with Datastream Connexion to create another laboratory portal specifically for the Integrated Consortium of Laboratory Networks (ICLN), which unites laboratory networks and analytical capabilities for 9 federal agencies into this ‘CoreSHIELD’ framework. It should be noted that a food safety issue can rapidly escalate into a food sustainability or security issue. For this reason, the ICLN capability was called for in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and is now part of Homeland Security’s reporting to Congress.
Eric Hoffman also shared, “It is a matter of great pride for Datastream Connexion that we have been able to use our technological expertise to work with so many stakeholders to assist in integrating our National Food Safety System. We are grateful for the support, partnerships and grants that we have received from government agencies, universities, organizations and associations. We look forward to partnering more with industry to further extend these capabilities beyond the primary work we have already accomplished.”
Datastream Connexion provides critical web-based infrastructure applications and full cycle development support for Fortune 500, Federal and State Government, universities, and professional associations from conception to long-term maintenance and security management.
Name: William Krueger
Email Address: [email protected]
SOURCE: Datastream Connexion
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