A Public Health Informatics Solution to Improving Food Safety in Restaurants: Putting the Missing Piece in the Puzzle

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Foodborne illnesses remain an important public health challenge in the United States causing an estimated 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths per year. Restaurants are frequent settings for foodborne illness transmission. Public health surveillance - the continual, systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of reports of health data to prevent and control illness - is a prerequisite for an effective food control system. While restaurant inspection data are routinely collected, these data are not regularly aggregated like traditional surveillance data. However, there is evidence that these data are a valuable tool for understanding foodborne illness outbreaks and threats to food safety. This article discusses the challenges and opportunities for incorporating routine restaurant inspection data as a surveillance tool for monitoring and improving foodborne illness prevention activities. The three main challenges are: 1) lack of a national framework; 2) lack of data standards and interoperability; and 3) limited access to restaurant inspection data. Tapping into the power of public health informatics represents an opportunity to address these challenges. Advancing the food safety system by improving restaurant inspection information systems and making restaurant inspection data available to support decision-making represents an opportunity to practice smarter food safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e5
JournalOnline journal of public health informatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article. Authors own copyright of their articles appearing in the Journal of Public Health Informatics. Readers may copy articles without permission of the copyright owner(s), as long as the author and OJPHI are acknowledged in the copy and the copy is used for educational, not-for-profit purposes.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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