Partner Success Stories

Health department partners funded to participate in CDC’s Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net) have advanced evidence-based practices to prevent foodborne outbreaks in their communities. Below are success stories from funded EHS-Net partners and other, non-funded partners in EHS-Net such as the United States Department of Agriculture. For tools and other resources resulting from EHS-Net, explore our Tools from Funded Partners page.

In 2017, Tennessee investigated an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness in a restaurant. Investigators confirmed the point-source norovirus outbreak after finding norovirus in an environmental sample collected from a surface where an infected patron threw up about a week before. They found that inadequate employee handwashing was a likely contributing factor to foodborne transmission in this outbreak.

An EHS-Net-funded evaluation of New York City’s new gradingExternal program for restaurant sanitation shows that the program improved restaurants’ food safety. The proportion of restaurants scoring an “A” on their inspections increased by 35%. And 9 of 10 residents said they considered grades when deciding where to eat out.

Rhode Island’s EHS-Net funded research found that Rhode Island—the only northeastern state at the time that prohibited selling undercooked ground meat to children—had lower E. coli illness rates than other northeastern states. These findings influenced the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prohibit the sale of undercooked ground meat in children’s menu items in the agency’s Food CodeExternal (Section 3-401.11(D)(2) in 2009). Jurisdictions can use the Food Code as a model for their own food codes to improve restaurant food safety.

Rhode Island’s environmental assessment of a Salmonella outbreak in 2010 led to the discovery that improperly designed slicers contributed to the outbreak. The slicers could not be properly cleaned, which created harborage sites for the bacteria. In response to this outbreak, Rhode Island’s EHS-Net program worked with NSF International to create new slicer standardsExternal that went into effect in November 2012 and also worked with FDA to create educational materialsExternal about these standards.

Minnesota’s EHS-Net funded research on restaurant sushi preparationExternal and storage practices highlighted the need for training for regulatory staff on identifying and citing food code violations pertaining to parasite destruction and time as a temperature control. The Minnesota Department of Health Data used data from the research to inform this training, and provided it to state and local health department regulatory staff in Minnesota.

EHS-Net researchers found that restaurants that had outbreaks were less likely to have kitchen managers certified in food safety than restaurants that had not had outbreaks. These findings influenced FDA to revise certification requirements in its model Food CodeExternal (sections 2-102.12 and 2-102.20 in 2017). Twenty-six states and D.C. now require food service establishments to have a kitchen manager certified in food safety on staff.

EHS-Net data show that kitchen manager certification is consistently linked to food safety. In 2016, CDC proposed strengthening the FDA Food Code kitchen manager certification provision. The proposal requires food service establishments to have a certified kitchen manager present during all hours of operation. The strengthened kitchen manager certification provision will be in the 2017 FDA Food Code.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released a new rule on records to be kept by official establishments and retail stores that grind raw beef products. The rule requires establishments to maintain beef grinding logs, which will improve FSIS’s ability to trace the source of foodborne illness outbreaks. Findings from the EHS-Net Beef Grinding Log Study were part of the scientific rationale behind the new rule.

Page last reviewed: April 7, 2017