OAKDALE, MN / ACCESSWIRE / December 2, 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 between as many as 15,000 users spread across 630 working groups for better food traceability, predictive analytics, reducing food contamination, and rapidly responding to crises caused by all hazards, including food-borne pathogens. 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 US. Federal agencies would have to coordinate with departments of agriculture, health, environmental or other multiple agencies 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 alignment of national resources and testing, leading to unnecessary delays that in some cases led to fatalities. Food safety infrastructure and laws had not changed for more than half a century. A strong need was felt to integrate and modernize food safety information sharing systems in the US.
Credit: Datastream Connexion
On October 2, 1997, President Clinton announced an initiative to ensure the safety of imported and domestic fruits and vegetables. There was 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 a web-based portal solution. This solution, over a period of time, facilitated sustained, integrated communication, coordination and collaboration leading to the funding and building of ‘Food Shield' - a platform that focused on secure communication and resource allocation through cross-agency collaboration. Through such cross-agency collaboration, the different individual agencies worked together in closer harmony for better implementation of food safety standards and response capabilities.
Initially launched as a pilot project funded by leftover grants for workshops by the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), the web-based platform proved to be a success. Through multiple administrations, over a period of 20 years, Datastream Connexion worked with government agencies 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 ‘FoodShield' by Datastream Connexion led to demand from other government agencies, associations and academic institutions for similar web-based technology solutions.
During this same period, the 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). FERN felt that it was necessary to have its own laboratory identity and portal, so it contracted through the NCFPD with Datastream Connexion to develop a parallel site that cloned many of the same features that FoodSHIELD has for the FERN laboratories. In a similar manner, Datastream Connexion extended these capabilities to other laboratory networks and government regulatory needs. The company has now developed more than 40 portals linked to ‘FoodSHIELD' or cloned from ‘FoodSHIELD' to cater to the needs of different communities and respond to emergencies, whether they deal with public health, animal health, environmental protection or homeland security.
This is a very unique case of 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 with federal, state and local governments 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 us 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. This ICLN capability was called for in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and is part of Homeland Security's reporting to Congress. A food safety issue can rapidly escalate into a food sustainability or security issue. It is a matter of great pride to us that we have been able to use our technological expertise to work with integration of so many government agency capabilities in order to promote efficient communication and information sharing in crucial areas like food protection. I am grateful for the support, partnerships and grants that we have received from government agencies. We look forward to partnering with industry to further extend these capabilities beyond the primary work we have accomplished."
About Datastream Connexion
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.
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SOURCE: Datastream Connexion
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