Outbreaks of food-borne illness could more easily be tracked and handled in all 50 states under a new government computer network.
Vice President Al Gore was unveiling the system Friday with Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala.Gore said the computer web, dubbed Pulse-Net, would enable investigators to identify outbreaks five times faster than is possible now.
"With this efficient new computer network, we can more effectively trace widespread food-borne disease outbreaks and warn millions of Americans to stay away from contaminated food products," he said in a statement.
The move is the administration's latest effort to reduce the estimated 9,000 deaths and 33 million illnesses caused by food-borne patho-gens each year. Previous efforts include issuing new guidelines to farms and food processors on how to guard against contamination and adopting new inspection techniques at meat and poul-try plants.
The network will use the computer Internet to link the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the Agriculture Department, four laboratories and state health departments together.
PulseNet will link epidemiologists in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, Washington, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. The remaining states will be hooked up by 1999.