Public health and food safety officials have long recognized the important role that state agencies play in protecting consumers from foodborne disease. With the increasing occurrence of multi-jurisdictional outbreaks, efforts have been underway to modernize and make more uniform the patchwork of state laws, protocols, and policies that exist across the U.S. for food-borne illness surveillance and outbreak response activities. To aid in this endeavor, and to better understand the role of law in a state's ability to carry out these functions effectively, we are creating a database of key legal authorities and provisions relating to foodborne illness surveillance and outbreak response across the 50 states and District of Columbia. There appears to be wide variation in the legal infrastructure for these activities, ranging from how certain terms are defined, to what and when foodborne illnesses must be reported, to which level of government has responsibility over investigation and response of foodborne outbreaks. As outbreaks become more widespread and involve multiple jurisdictions, it is important that public health and food safety stakeholders understand the legal authorities under which they operate, how such authorities may impede or promote efficient and effective surveillance and outbreak response, and use that knowledge to determine if state laws should be updated or strengthened.