The new CDC tools will help health departments and authorities that inspect food service establishing pin down the causes of foodborne illness outbreaks.

New CDC Tools Intended to Improve Food Service Safety

"We are taking a key step forward in capturing critical data that will allow us to assemble a big picture view of the environmental causes of foodborne outbreaks," said Carol Selman, who heads CDC's Environmental Health Specialists Network team at the National Center for Environmental Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed a new surveillance system and also an e-learning course to help state and local health departments investigate foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants and other food service venues as part of a larger outbreak response team. CDC's news release said both will be available in early 2014, and it hopes increasing awareness and implementation of proper food safety in restaurants and delis may prevent many U.S. foodborne illness outbreaks.

The agency's research has identified food preparation and handling practices, worker health policies, and hand-washing practices as being among the factors that often aren’t reported during foodborne outbreaks, even though nearly half of all foodborne outbreaks that are reported each year are connected with restaurants or delis. "Inspectors have not had a formal system to capture and report the underlying factors that likely contribute to foodborne outbreaks or a way to inform prevention strategies and implement routine corrective measures in restaurants, delis, and schools to prevent future outbreaks," said Carol Selman, who heads CDC's Environmental Health Specialists Network team at the National Center for Environmental Health.

Four articles published Dec. 2 in the Journal of Food Protection focus on actions steps to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks related to ground beef, chicken, and leafy vegetables, as well as food safety best practices, such as ill workers not working while they are sick.

The National Voluntary Environmental Assessment Information System (NVEAIS) is a new surveillance system targeted to state, tribal, and other entities that inspect and regulate restaurants and other food venues such as banquet facilities and schools. The system provides a wayto capture underlying environmental assessment data that describes what happened and how events most likely lead to a foodborne outbreak.

The e-learning course has been developed to help state and local health departments investigate foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants and other food service venue. It is also available to members of the food industry, academia, and the general public.

"We are taking a key step forward in capturing critical data that will allow us to assemble a big picture view of the environmental causes of foodborne outbreaks," Selman said.

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