September 2019 Journal of Environmental Health (Volume 82, Number 2)
Food Safety: Environmental Health Data Matter
Beth Wittry, MPH, REHS,Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
James Mack, MPA, REHS, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Environmental Assessment Reporting System (NEARS) is a surveillance system that captures data collected through the environmental health component (i.e., environmental assessment) of foodborne illness outbreak investigations in retail food establishments. These environmental assessment data, typically collected by environmental health staff, can provide valuable information about contributing factors and environmental antecedents to outbreaks. NEARS data can be used to improve retail food safety prevention efforts. Furthermore, NEARS data collected and analyzed at the national level can provide data valuable to improving outbreak prevention and investigation practices.
This month’s column provides an example of how one jurisdiction is using NEARS to improve its prevention and investigation practice. The column also provides examples of how CDC is working to support the increased use of NEARS and empower food safety programs to conduct and report environmental assessments.