During production, harvesting, processing, packaging, transportation, preparation, storage, and service, any food may be exposed to contamination with poisonous substances or infectious or toxigenic microorganisms. Processing or preparation failure may lead to survival of microorganisms or toxins, and time–temperature abuse can allow proliferation of pathogenic bacteria and molds. In addition, some plants are intrinsically toxic. Animals may acquire toxins from their food or metabolize them, or they become infected with or colonized by pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites. If a product contaminated with sufficient quantities of poisonous substances or pathogenic microorganisms is eaten, susceptible persons may develop foodborne illness. The food supply may be local or global. In fact today, fresh as well as shelf stable food is available from sources all over the world. Foodborne illness outbreaks are routinely being linked to sources of contamination far distant from the point of consumption. Whatever the source, an investigation always begins at one or more local levels and can expand from there. Therefore, foodborne illness surveillance, investigation, and response systems require the close collaboration and coordination of food safety and public health agencies at local, state/provincial, federal/national, and international levels.

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