Systematic environmental evaluations to identify food safety differences between outbreak and nonoutbreak restaurants

Craig W. Hedberg, S. Jay Smith, Elizabeth Kirklanb, Vincent Radke, Tim F. Jones, Carol A. Selman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Restaurants are important settings for foodborne disease transmission. The Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net) was established to identify underlying factors contributing to disease outbreaks and to translate those findings into improved prevention efforts. From June 2002 through June 2003, EHS-Net conducted systematic environmental evaluations in 22 restaurants in which outbreaks had occurred and 347 restaurants in which outbreaks had not occurred. Norovirus was the most common foodborne disease agent identified, accounting for 42% of all confirmed foodborne outbreaks during the study period. Handling of food by an infected person or carrier (65%) and bare-hand contact with food (35%) were the most commonly identified contributing factors. Outbreak and nonoutbreak restaurants were similar with respect to many characteristics. The major difference was in the presence of a certified kitchen manager (CKM); 32% of outbreak restaurants had a CKM, but 71% of nonoutbreak restaurants had a CKM (odds ratio of 0.2; 95% confidence interval of 0.1 to 0.5). CKMs were associated with the absence of bare-hand contact with foods as a contributing factor, fewer norovirus outbreaks, and the absence of outbreaks associated with Clostridium perfringens. However, neither the presence of a CKM nor the presence of policies regarding employee health significantly affected the identification of an infected person or carrier as a contributing factor. These findings suggest a lack of effective monitoring of employee illness or a lack of commitment to enforcing policies regarding ill food workers. Food safety certification of kitchen managers appears to be an important outbreak prevention measure, and managing food worker illnesses should be emphasized during food safety training programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2697-2702
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of food protection
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2006

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