March 2021 Direct From CDC/Environmental Health Services
Journal of Environmental Health (Volume 83, Number 7)
Editor's Note: The National Environmental Health Association strives to provide up-to-date and relevant information on environmental health and to build partnerships in the profession. In pursuit of these goals, we feature a column on environmental health services from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in every issue of the Journal.
In these columns, authors from CDC's Water, Food, and Environmental Health Services Branch, as well as guest authors, will share insights and information about environmental health programs, trends, issues, and resources. The conclusions of these columns are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of CDC.
Using Data to Improve Practice: Looking Back on 20 Years of Restaurant Food Safety Research
Laura Brown, PhD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recognizing the important role environmental health programs play in food safety, funded a new cooperative agreement program on retail food safety called the Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net). EHS-Net is a network of environmental health programs in state and local health departments focused on understanding how retail food service establishment policies and practices contribute to foodborne illness and outbreaks. EHS-Net staff collaborate closely with their counterparts in epidemiology and laboratory programs, and with CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. EHS-Net staff are experienced in food safety and uniquely positioned to collect high-quality data on food safety policies and practices.
In its 20-year history, EHS-Net has conducted 15 retail food safety studies. These studies focused on restaurants because over one half of foodborne outbreaks are linked with restaurants. These studies, based primarily on data collection from observations of and interviews with restaurant staff, resulted in 50 scientific articles and 25 plain language summaries with key findings and recommendations. This month's column highlights the findings of this research related to food safety procedures, staff training and certification, and monitoring, as well as how these findings have helped strengthen food safety policies and practices.