Foodborne Outbreak Investigation Tools

Tools below are from the Oregon Food Safety Center of Excellence.
For the consolidated tools of all five Food Safety Centers of Excellence, visit

View a brief summary of tools on this page (pdf)
For more information, contact Oregon FOMES

Interviewer Training Videos

Complete version that explains background and is very helpful for understanding outbreak investigation interviewing. Please reference this worksheet (pdf) for the training activity.

Shorter version that is useful as a refresher or as a quick introduction to volunteer interviewers when you need to get right to work interviewing.

This version only includes the sample interviews for the related exercise.

Binomial Probability Worksheet

Binomial Probability Worksheet (XLS)

  • What if 5 of 9 cases report consumption of alfalfa sprouts? Is that "significant"?
  • This Excel worksheet allows you to calculate the binomial probability of getting X or more "yes" answers to a given exposure question if you know or can guesstimate the background rate.



These templates are designed for use in outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis. Most templates are intended for user modification to fit the circumstances. More specific instructions are embedded within the documents.


Shotgun Hypothesis-generating Questionnaires

Shotgun Hypothesis-generating Questionnaire - English (PDF)
Shotgun Hypothesis-generating Questionnaire (En Español) (PDF)

  • Designed for use with subtyping clusters that suggest contaminated commercial food products in wide distribution.
  • Can be used as a stand-alone PDF questionnaire, but formatted for use with a FileMaker database tool that simplifies data entry and analysis.
  • Unlike versions of the shotgun available before October 2013, this questionnaire is generated from a database and is based on an "exposure library" of potential questions.
  • Database users can generate their own questionnaires that differ (shorter, longer, different array of questions, different order) but are compatible in terms of tabulation and analysis.
  • Embedded keypunch codes are linked to the database and should not be changed.


Event- and Venue-centric Outbreak Questionnaire Template

Event- and Venue-centric Outbreak Questionnaire Template (doc)



The Gopher-Beaver form

The Gopher-Beaver form (doc)

  • Developed jointly by Minnesota and Oregon epidemiologists, this template can be used to collect standardized information about specific products implicated in commercially-distributed food outbreaks.
  • Used to collect specific product details (brand name, lot codes, purchase dates and locations, leftovers, etc.)—typically after a product is implicated. This information is useful to regulatory agencies or others who may be conducting tracebacks.



Although many people can be talked into donating a stool specimen, we don’t always get good specimens back from everyone who says yes. Sometimes they don’t come back, and sometimes they aren’t good. After much thought, discussion, and experimentation, we’ve come up with this kit — a revolutionary new packet of materials (in English and Spanish) that makes collecting a stool specimen simple and fun. You distribute the kits, collect them when they’ve been used, process the specimens back at the health department, and send the specimens to the lab (in Oregon, send to OSPHL by courier).


Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR)

CIFOR is a multidisciplinary working group convened to increase collaboration across the country and across relevant areas of expertise in order to reduce the burden of foodborne illness in the United States.

  • Second Edition of the CIFOR Guidelines for Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response.
  • The CIFOR Toolkit walks public health practitioners through a series of worksheets designed to help jurisdictions identify which recommendations from the Guidelines would be most useful for their jurisdiction.
  • CIFOR metrics for use by state and local public health agencies to evaluate the performance of their foodborne disease surveillance, outbreak investigation, and control programs.
  • CIFOR illness response guidelines for owners, operators and managers of food establishments.



State Epidemiology Offices

The Oregon Food Safety CoE (FOMES) maintains State Epidemiology Offices, a website where you can view the contact information for each U.S. state health department, selected U.S. territories, each Canadian province, as well as some larger metropolitan area health departments. (We suggest bookmarking/favoriting this page)

Below are instructions to access and use the database to verify or update your jurisdiction’s phone numbers, fax numbers, and URLs.

(Inter)National Epi/EH/Lab Contact List (pdf)


Interviewer Voice and Text Messaging Guide

A list of general guidelines for voice and text messaging outreach for interviewing cases, with templates included.

Interviewer Voice and Text Messaging Guide (pdf)



Remembering Dr. Bill Keene

Many of these outbreak investigation tools were developed by Dr. Bill Keene.

For more information on the life of Dr. Bill Keene and his extraordinary accomplishments, please read Remembering Bill Keene (pdf) or the CDC article (pdf) about how he touched so many lives.

Bill Keene was posthumously awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by NSF International at the 2014 Food Safety Summit. View the award ceremony video.