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Studies on Restaurant Food Handling and Food Safety Practices

This page lists completed EHS-Net food safety studies with a focus on restaurant food handling/food safety practices.

Read about how EHS-Net’s environmental public health practice work supports CDC’s Winnable Battle on Food Safety. [PDF - 960 KB]

Beef Grinding Logs Study

Photo: Image of a beef grinder.

Objective: To describe recordkeeping practices of beef grinding activities in retail establishments.

Study Results: We surveyed 125 establishments and where available, reviewed grinding records. We found that less than half of establishments kept grinding records. Only 22% of records had all data needed for effective traceback (e.g., grind date and time, lot number of the source beef).

Publication: Gould LH, Seys S, Everstine K, Norton D, Ripley D, Reimann D, et al. Recordkeeping practices of beef grinding activities at retail establishments. [PDF - 283 KB] J Food Prot. 2011;74(6):1022-4.

Study findings in plain language: Beef grinding records kept by retail stores.

Chicken Handling Practices Study

Objective: To describe restaurant chicken preparation and cooking practices and kitchen managers’ food safety knowledge concerning chicken.

Study Results: We interviewed managers of 448 restaurants; inadequate chicken preparation and cooking practices were commonly reported. Forty percent of managers said that they did not always assign certain cutting boards for raw meat (including chicken) only, 29% said that they did not wash and rinse surfaces before sanitizing them, and over 50% said that thermometers were not used to determine the final cook temperature of chicken. Only 43% of managers knew the temperature raw chicken needed to be cooked to.

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Publication: Brown L, Khargonekar S, Bushnell L, the EHS-Net Working Group. Frequency of inadequate chicken cross contamination prevention and cooking practices in restaurants. [PDF - 77 KB] J Food Prot. 2013;76(12):2141–2145.

Study findings in plain language: How restaurants prepare and cook chicken.

Egg-Handling Practices Study

Objective: To identify the prevalence of high-risk egg-handling practices and establishment policies in restaurants that serve breakfast all day.

Study Results: We interviewed kitchen managers and observed egg handling practices in 153 restaurants and found that risky egg handling practices were common. Fifty-four percent of restaurants pooled raw shell eggs not intended for immediate service, a practice not recommended by FDA. Some of these pooled eggs were held for 6 hours (the FDA-recommendation is 4 hours). Nearly 26% of restaurants reported storing eggs at room temperature. However, eggs were generally cooked to a temperature above the FDA-recommended final cook temperature of 63ºC.

Publication: Lee R, Beatty M, Bogard A, Esko M, Angulo F, Selman C, EHS-Net Working Group. Prevalence of high-risk egg-preparation practices in restaurants that prepare breakfast egg entrees: An EHS-Net study. [PDF - 178 KB] J Food Prot. 2004;67:1444-50.

Study findings in plain language: How restaurants prepare eggs.

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Food Cooling Practices Study

Objective: To collect descriptive data on food cooling practices in restaurants.

Study Results. We interviewed kitchen managers and observed food cooling practices in 420 restaurants and found that inadequate cooling policies and practices were common. Eighty-six percent of managers described cooling processes that did not include all FDA-recommended components (e.g., testing and verification). Also, many restaurants did not follow FDA recommendations about specific cooling methods (e.g., 39% of cooling foods were not cooled in shallow pans and 34% of cooling foods were not ventilated).

Publication: Brown LG, Ripley D, Blade H, Reimann D, Everstine K, Nicholas D, et al. Restaurant food cooling practices. [PDF - 435 KB] J Food Prot. 2012;75(12):2172-8. [EHS-Net Working Group]

Study findings in plain language: How restaurants cool food.

Food Workers’ Food Preparation Practices Focus Group Study

Objective: To evaluate behavioral factors, barriers, and motivations that influence safe food-handling practices in food-service establishments.

Study Results: We conducted focus groups with 70 food workers. Some food workers reported unsafe food preparation practices, such as inappropriate glove use and not checking the temperatures of cooked, reheated, and cooled foods. Many workers reported safe practices (e.g., washing their hands after preparing raw meat). Workers identified a number of factors that impacted their ability to prepare food safely, including time pressure; equipment and resources; staff emphasis on food safety; worker characteristics; negative consequences for those who do not prepare food safely; food safety education and training; restaurant procedures; and glove and sanitizer use.

Publication: Green L, Selman C. Factors impacting food workers’ and managers’ safe food preparation practices: a qualitative study. [PDF - 244 KB] Food Prot Trends. 2005;25:981-90.

Study findings in plain language: Factors affecting safe food preparation by food workers and managers.

Food Workers’ Food Preparation Practices Population Study

Objective: To determine self-reported prevalence of food service workers’ safe and unsafe food preparation practices at the population level.Photo: Image of food worker preparing raw foods.

Study Results: We interviewed 486 randomly selected food workers by telephone. They commonly reported risky food preparation practices. For example, workers said that they did not always wash their hands or change their gloves between handling raw meat and ready-to-eat (RTE) food (23% and 33%) and had worked while sick with vomiting or diarrhea (5%). Workers who prepared food reported washing their hands and wearing gloves when handling RTE food more often than workers who did not prepare food. Workers in chain reported using thermometers more often than workers in independently owned restaurants.

Publication: Green L, Selman C, Banerjee A, Marcus R, Medus C, Angulo FJ, et al. Food service workers’ self-reported food preparation practices: an EHS-Net study. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2005;208(1–2):27-35.

Study findings in plain language: Food safety practices of restaurant workers.

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Ground Beef Handling Practices Study

Objective: To evaluate ground beef handling practices in restaurants.

Study Results: We interviewed managers and observed ground beef handling practices in 385 restaurants. Data showed that risky ground beef handling practices were pervasive. Over 80% of managers said that they determined hamburger doneness by subjective measures, and 49% said that they never measured the final cook temperatures of hamburgers. At least two risky ground beef handling practices were observed in 53% of restaurants. Some risky practices occurred more often in independent (vs. chain) and sit-down (vs. quick-service) restaurants.

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Publication: Bogard A, Fuller C, Radke V, Selman C, Smith K. Ground beef handling and cooking practices in restaurants in eight states. [PDF - 318 KB] J Food Prot. 2013;76(12):2132-40.

Study findings in plain language:

Hand-Hygiene Study

Objective: To describe restaurant food workers' hand hygiene practices and identify factors associated with safe hand hygiene practices.

Study Results: We observed 321 workers preparing food in restaurants. They engaged in about 8.6 activities per hour for which hand washing is recommended. Workers made hand washing attempts in 32% of these activities and washed their hands appropriately in 27% of these activities. Attempted and appropriate hand washing rates were significantly higher with food preparation than with other activities (e.g., handling dirty equipment) and significantly lower when gloves were worn. Hand washing was more likely to occur when workers were not busy, and in restaurants that provided food safety training, with more than one hand sink, and with a hand sink in the worker’s sight.

Publication: Green LR, Radke V, Mason R, Bushnell L, Reimann DW, Mack J, et al. Factors related to food worker hand hygiene practices. [PDF - 489 KB] J Food Prot. 2007;70(3):661-6.

Study findings in plain language: Food worker handwashing and restaurant factors.

Publication: Green LR, Selman CA, Radke V, Ripley D, Mack JC, Reimann DW, et al. Food worker hand washing practices: an EHS-Net observation study. [PDF - 288 KB] J Food Prot. 2006;69(10):2417-23.

Study findings in plain language: Food worker handwashing and food preparation.

Ill Food Worker Study

Objective: To describe the frequency with which food workers work while ill with vomiting or diarrhea and to identify restaurant and worker characteristics linked with working with these symptoms.

Study Results: We interviewed 491 restaurant food workers. Twenty percent of workers said that they had worked while ill with vomiting or diarrhea for at least one shift in the previous year; 12% of workers said that they had worked while ill with vomiting or diarrhea on two or more shifts in the previous year. Restaurant characteristics linked with workers having said that they had worked while ill were high volume of meals served, lack of policies requiring workers to report illness to managers, lack of on-call workers, and lack of manager experience. Worker characteristics linked with workers having said that they had worked while ill were gender (males were more likely to have said that they had worked while ill), job duties (those who did not cook were more likely to have said that they had worked while ill), fewer years of work experience, concerns about leaving coworkers short-staffed, and concerns about job loss.

Publication: Sumner S, Brown LG, Frick R, Stone C, Carpenter LR, Bushnell L, et al. Factors associated with food workers working while experiencing vomiting or diarrhea. [PDF - 190 KB] J Food Prot. 2011;74(2):215-20.

Study findings in plain language: Food workers working when they are sick.

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Publication: Carpenter L, Green A, Norton D, Frick R, Tobin-D’Angelo M, Reimann D, et al. Food worker experiences with and beliefs about working while ill. [PDF - 157 KB] J Food Prot. 2013;76(12):2146-54. doi:10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-13-128. [Brown LG, Le B]

Study findings in plain language:

Leafy Greens Handling Practices Study

Objective: To describe restaurant leafy greens preparation practices.

Study Results: We interviewed managers of 349 restaurants and took the temperatures of 37 leafy greens shipments. Sixty-five percent of managers said that they had rejected a leafy greens shipment at some point; greens were rejected because they looked or smelled bad, were wet, were not in the right temperature range, or were missing a required label. Over 50% of leafy greens shipment temperatures were above the FDA-recommended temperature of 41°F.

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Publication: Coleman E, Delea K, Everstine K, Reimann D, Ripley D, the EHS-Net Working Group. Handling practices of fresh leafy greens in restaurants: receiving and training. [PDF - 165 KB] J Food Prot. 2013;76(12):2126-31.

Study findings in plain language: How restaurants receive leafy vegetables.

Tomato-Handling Practices Study

Objective: To identify the types of tomatoes used in restaurants and describe tomato-handling practices.

Study Results: We observed tomato-handling practices in 449 restaurants. In many observations of tomato cutting, produce-only cutting boards were not used (49%) and gloves were not worn (36%). In 82% of observations of tomato washing, tomatoes were soaked in standing water, a practice not recommended by FDA. About half of all batches of cut tomatoes in holding were above 41º F, the maximum temperature recommended by the FDA.

Publication: Kirkland E, Green LR, Stone C, Reimann D, Nicholas D, Mason R, et al. Tomato handling practices in restaurants. [PDF - 109 KB] J Food Prot. 2009;72(8):1692-8.

Study findings in plain language: How restaurants handle tomatoes.

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