The Texas RRT (TRRT) provides preparedness, prevention, and timely response
to food- and/or feed-related disasters affecting the citizens of Texas. It is a multi-agency team, comprising FDA, the Texas Department of State Health Services
(DSHS), and the Office of the Texas State Chemist (OTSC). In August 2017, the
TRRT was faced with the enormous task of responding to manufactured product
safety concerns caused by Hurricane Harvey. Harvey struck the Texas Gulf Coast on
August 25, 2017, causing substantial amounts of devastation. Thousands of processors and manufacturers of food, animal feed, drugs, and medical devices were in the
path of the storm. Structural damage, power outages, and floodwaters potentially
contaminated products produced by these businesses. The TRRT sought to prevent
compromised products, produced in regulated
firms, from reaching the public.
TRRT activated on August 30 for the
Hurricane Harvey response. The mission tasks were to assess food, medical devices, drug, and animal feed
businesses affected by Harvey,
conduct on-site inspections as necessary based on assessments, and
communicate appropriate information to various agencies. FDA,
DSHS, and OTSC formed a joint
incident command to lead response
efforts. Each agency designated an
incident commander. The team of
incident commanders directed response
efforts concurrently, allowing for effective
communication and preventing duplication of
Before damage assessments could take place, firms that were potentially affected
by the storm had to be determined. Texas counties affected by Hurricane Harvey
were identified, then lists of manufacturing companies in those counties were compiled. Lists had to be vetted and compared between agencies to meet the goal of
conducting response efforts without duplication of effort. These lists were then divided and assigned to field teams tasked with performing surveys.
While the geographic information was being gathered, methods of assessment
were being developed. Firms would be surveyed to determine levels of damage sustained. Disaster survey questionnaires were created. The surveys contained questions
that asked whether firms had been affected by Hurricane Harvey, were currently in
operation, had power, had been flooded, sustained physical damage, and had products affected by any storm conditions.
Field teams were assembled to collect survey data. Surveys were conducted
by phone. If sustained storm damage was indicated, an on-site assessment was
performed to make certain that contaminated products were destroyed and that
sustained structural damage would not lead to further product contamination.
Fortunately, it was discovered that most compromised products had already been
destroyed voluntarily by firms.
This was the first TRRT activation that went beyond the scope of food and
animal feed. The TRRT primarily responds to foodborne illness outbreaks, but the
enormous impact of Hurricane Harvey required the inclusion of groups that had
never before participated in a TRRT response. DSHS mobilized resources from
Milk and Dairy, and Drugs and Medical Device programs. FDA mobilized Human
and Animal Foods, the Office of Pharmaceutical Quality Operations, the Office of
Biological Product Operations, the Of-
fice of Medical Devices and Radiologi-
cal Health, and the Office of Biological
Research and Monitoring Operations.
The OTSC Laboratory was utilized
under a TRRT ICS structure for the
first time during this response. The lab
provided analytical results to the Texas
rice industry to be used for market certainty and crop insurance purposes. The
analytical testing included microbiological (e.g., Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and
Clostridium perfringens), heavy metals
(e.g., mercury, lead, and cadmium), my-cotoxins (e.g., aflatoxin, fumonisin, and
zearalenone), and a poison screen.
The members of the TRRT returned
to their normal duties on October 20,
2017. In total, 2,850 businesses were
surveyed by DSHS, 279 by OTSC, and
over 1,700 by FDA. Forty-six on-site
visits were completed by DSHS, 68 were
completed by OTSC, and 7 were completed by FDA.
There were many challenges during the Hurricane Harvey response.
The TRRT was already activated due
to a national cyclosporiasis outbreak
when the storm struck the Texas coast.
This was the first time that the TRRT
was activated for two separate events
simultaneously. Although Hurricane
Harvey essentially halted all boots-on-the-ground activity in the Houston area,
Cyclospora-related activities continued.
Several command and general staff were
working on both activations at the same
time, eventually being mobilized for 3
The workload for the command and
general staff could have been reduced
if the TRRT had more people trained
and available for mobilization. This
would have prevented those resources
from having to work on more than one
activation at a time. As a result, TRRT
has requested Incident Command,
Plans Chief, and Operations Chief ICS
courses. Those courses are to take place
in the spring and summer of 2018.
TRRT resources, namely boots-on-the-ground inspectors, had been
assigned to assist with other Hurricane
Harvey response efforts outside of the
food protection officials
do a great deal of various
types of work to ensure food
marketed within their
jurisdiction is safe.”