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CDC to Launch New Food Safety Surveillance and Training Tools

This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new research identifying gaps in the education of restaurant workers and in public health surveillance.

In particular, researchers found that food preparation and handling practices, worker health policies, and hand-washing practices are among the underlying environmental factors that often are not reported during foodborne outbreaks.

The agency believes that increasing the awareness and implementation of correct food safety practices in restaurants and delis could help prevent many foodborne illness outbreaks.

“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, head of CDC’s Environmental Health Specialists Network team at the National Center for Environmental Health.

Since 2000, CDC has worked with state and local health departments to develop new surveillance and training tools to advance the use of environmental health assessments as a part of foodborne outbreak investigations. One tool is a free, interactive e-Learning course to help state and local health departments identify environmental causes of outbreaks and recommend appropriate controls.

Another is the National Voluntary Environmental Assessment Information System (NVEAIS), which gives food venue inspectors a way to track underlying environmental assessment data that describe what events most likely lead to a foodborne outbreak. These data subsequently help CDC and other public health professionals to better understand the primary and underlying causes of an outbreak.

The agency plans to debut its new data surveillance system and e-Learning course in early 2014.

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