Contributing Factors in Restaurant- Associated Foodborne Disease Outbreaks, FoodNet Sites, 2006 and 2007

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch, Atlanta, Georgia 30330, USA. .
Journal of food protection (Impact Factor: 1.85). 11/2013; 76(11):1824-8. DOI: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-13-037
Source: PubMed


An estimated 48 million cases of foodborne illness occur each year in the United States, resulting in approximately 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Over half of all foodborne disease outbreaks reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are associated with eating in restaurants or delicatessens. We reviewed data from restaurant-associated foodborne disease outbreaks to better understand the factors that contribute to these outbreaks. Data on restaurant-associated foodborne disease outbreaks reported by sites participating in the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) were analyzed to characterize contributing factors reported in foodborne disease outbreaks and the levels of evidence used to identify these factors. Of 457 foodborne disease outbreaks reported in 2006 and 2007 by FoodNet sites, 300 (66%) were restaurant associated, and of these 295 (98%) had at least one reported contributing factor. One to nine (with a median of two) contributing factors were reported per outbreak. Of the 257 outbreaks with a single etiology reported, contributing factors associated with food worker health and hygiene were reported for 165 outbreaks (64%), factors associated with food preparation practices within the establishment were reported for 88 outbreaks (34%), and factors associated with contamination introduced before reaching the restaurant were reported for 56 outbreaks (22%). The pronounced role of food workers in propagating outbreaks makes it clear that more work is needed to address prevention at the local level. Food workers should be instructed not to prepare food while ill to prevent the risk of transmitting pathogens.

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    ABSTRACT: Surveillance data indicate that handling of food by an ill worker is a cause of almost half of all restaurant-related outbreaks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code contains recommendations for food service establishments, including restaurants, aimed at reducing the frequency with which food workers work while ill. However, few data exist on the extent to which restaurants have implemented FDA recommendations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net) conducted a study on the topic of ill food workers in restaurants. We interviewed restaurant managers (n = 426) in nine EHS-Net sites. We found that many restaurant policies concerning ill food workers do not follow FDA recommendations. For example, one-third of the restaurants' policies did not specifically address the circumstances under which ill food workers should be excluded from work (i.e., not be allowed to work). We also found that, in many restaurants, managers are not actively involved in decisions about whether ill food workers should work. Additionally, almost 70% of managers said they had worked while ill; 10% said they had worked while having nausea or “stomach flu,” possible symptoms of foodborne illness. When asked why they had worked when ill, a third of the managers said they felt obligated to work or their strong work ethic compelled them to work. Other reasons cited were that the restaurant was understaffed or no one was available to replace them (26%), they felt that their symptoms were mild or not contagious (19%), they had special managerial responsibilities that no one else could fulfill (11%), there was non–food handling work they could do (7%), and they would not get paid if they did not work or the restaurant had no sick leave policy (5%). Data from this study can inform future research and help policy makers target interventions designed to reduce the frequency with which food workers work while ill.
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