NoroCORE stakeholders hail from over 100 different organizations within industry, academia, and government. They represent a variety of groups, but have a shared interest in furthering progress in tackling the problems posed by foodborne viruses. Active stakeholder engagement is a priority for NoroCORE, as a means of ensuring that the information and control strategies developed by the Collaborative are practical, effective, and reach the intended audience. In return, we seek to provide each of these groups with science-based information, and up-to-date research findings on foodborne viruses.
Our stakeholder groups can be roughly divided into several sectors, ranging from the industries that battle daily with the foodborne virus issue, to supporting industries that help them “fight the good fight,” to governmental regulators dedicated to keeping the food supply safe and wholesome.
Government, Nonprofit, Professional Associations, & Public Health
Government stakeholders represent U.S. state- and federal-level organizations that are instrumental in prioritizing research agendas and establishing policies that drive public health improvements in food safety. Professional associations capture an array of food industry and safety experts, and are key channels for distributing relevant information to that audience. Public health professionals, who serve as an important link to the general public and often are at the frontline when it comes to managing outbreaks, are also a valued stakeholder group.
Nonprofit and educational organizations dedicated to food safety are instrumental in advising and promoting the development of consumer-oriented education and outreach materials, and connecting critical information to consumer audiences. Recent research has revealed concerning gaps in the information on foodborne viruses available in current training materials, and in consumer knowledge of norovirus. A recent study by NoroCORE collaborators indicated that less than half of U.S. adults had heard of norovirus, and mistakenly believe that bacteria, not viruses, are the leading cause of foodborne illness.
The retail foodservice and grocery industries are key partners for tackling the foodborne norovirus problem. Recent reports from the CDC showed that food preparation accounted for the source of norovirus contamination in 90% of outbreaks with an implicated food in the U.S., and food handlers were specifically implicated as the source in 70% of foodborne outbreaks. These industries are partnering with NoroCORE to obtain current, relevant information on noroviruses; to advise the development of practical, applicable prevention and control measures for their industry; and to improve education and awareness among food workers.
Fresh produce items, such as leafy greens and fruits, are among the most frequently implicated commodities for norovirus outbreaks linked to specific food types. The fresh produce industry is instrumental in the prevention and control of norovirus contamination, as they represent many steps of the produce farm-to-fork continuum. Members of this industry partner with NoroCORE to improve education in the industry, better understand the transmission pathways involved with fresh produce, and develop appropriate control measures.
Of norovirus outbreaks linked to a specific food category, molluscan shellfish are among the most frequently implicated. Oysters, clams, and other molluscan shellfish can concentrate virus particles from contaminated growing waters within their bodies and are often eaten only lightly cooked, contributing to cases of disease. The molluscan shellfish industry is partnering with NoroCORE to implement efforts to prevent norovirus contamination in shellfish growing waters (believed to be the main source of norovirus contamination for shellfish), as well as increase awareness and guide research into detection of viruses in shellfish growing waters.
Sanitation and Disinfection
Noroviruses pose a special problem for the development of effective sanitizers and disinfectants, due to their marked resistance and persistence in the environment, yet having these products and protocols for how to use them is essential to controlling noroviruses. Companies developing sanitizers and disinfectants need access to and an understanding of the most recent research in norovirus prevention and control, such as that emerging from NoroCORE research, to successfully tackle this challenge.
The ability to detect noroviruses in clinical settings and in the environment is critical to understanding and preventing transmission of these viruses, yet it remains a challenge for the field. The ability to distinguish infectious and non-infectious norovirus particles has direct benefit in evaluating the effectiveness of control methods. Diagnostic facilities, companies designing and manufacturing novel detection technologies, and food processing equipment manufacturers are instrumental in keeping the food supply free from foodborne virus contamination. NoroCORE provides an avenue for this industry to engage with emerging, novel detection techniques and the research that serves as the foundation for development of new technologies.