Food Safety Magazine

April 16, 2014

'Safety Datapalooza' Boosts Usability of FSIS Salmonella Data

'Safety Datapalooza' Boosts Usability of FSIS Salmonella Data

Source: USDA Blog / Megan Buckles, USDA-FSIS public affairs specialist

On Jan. 14, 2014, nearly 400 people participated in the second annual “Safety Datapalooza” at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) headquarters. The event, hosted by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy and Office of Public Engagement, U.S. Department of Transportation and USDA, recognized innovators from the private, nonprofit and academic sectors who have freely used available government data to build products, services and apps that advance public safety in creative and powerful ways.

During a breakout session, Christopher Alvares, director of the Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS) data analysis and integration staff, explained the agency’s recently released Salmonella Action Plan and testing programs aimed at reducing the number of illnesses associated with FSIS-regulated products using new standards, strategies and innovation. “FSIS produces regular reports on Salmonella contamination in regulated product, but the data had never been available in machine-readable format or in a single place,” said Alvares. Up until now, this data had been available only from report to report spanning many years. Today, this data is available as one source and in one place.

After the Safety Datapalooza, FSIS wanted to encourage the spirit of innovation and reinforce its commitment to maintaining transparency by posting the FSIS Quarterly Salmonella and Campylobacter Summary dataset on Data.gov. The data comes from FSIS’ Quarterly Salmonella Reports going back to 2006 and lists the numbers of samples tested and the percentage that tested positive. The samples come from routine verification sampling programs conducted by FSIS and are collected by FSIS inspectors at federally inspected meat and poultry establishments and tested at FSIS testing laboratories.

FSIS is dedicated to transparency and reducing Salmonella as seen by the Salmonella Action Plan. “One of the agency’s goals, as stated in our Strategic Data Analysis Plan, is to improve the accessibility and usability of FSIS data. We wanted to know what the public could do with the data to help prevent illnesses and what other data may be needed for better mashups and results,” said Alvares.

The release of this data builds upon the Safety Data Initiative launched by the White House in May 2012. This initiative aims to make government data relating to every aspect of public and product safety, from crime to roadway safety to food safety, more accessible, as well as encourage the development of innovative apps and services fueled by those data to empower Americans with the information and tools to make smarter, safer choices.

For more information about Salmonella and the Salmonella Action Plan, visit the FSIS Salmonella and Salmonellosis website.