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Foodborne Outbreak Investigation Tools

clip art of toolbox and wrench

For the consolidated tools of all five Centers of Excellence, please visit

To view a brief summary about the tools on this page, view the Oregon Outbreak Investigation Tools (PDF). For more information, contact the FOMES staff

On this page:


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.

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.

Event- and Venue-centric Outbreak Questionnaire Template

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

  • Designed for "local event" outbreaks of gastroenteritis (restaurants, weddings, etc.).
  • A stand-alone Word file, but formatted for use with a FileMaker database that simplifies data entry, cleaning, analysis, and report writing.
  • In addition to our basic blank template, focused templates are available for:

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.


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.



IT kit

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).


Interviewer Training Resources

stills from training video

The “Interviewer Cardinal Rules” video series explains the 10 cardinal rules of effective interviewing and provides a video training exercise (to be used with our handout). The longer version explains background and is very helpful for understanding outbreak investigation interviewing. The shorter (9-minute) version is useful as a quick introduction for times when it is important to get on the phones as quickly as possible. We’ve also spun off a 4-minute version that just includes the sample interviews for the related exercise. Finally, we’ve include a presentation template that can be customized for your specific training. 


Remembering Dr. Bill Keene

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 

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