What Are Environmental Assessments?

Environmental assessments are an important part of outbreak investigations. They provide the information needed to recommend effective short and long term interventions that stop ongoing foodborne outbreaks and prevent them in the future.

An environmental assessment of a foodborne illness outbreak determines how and why germs got into the environment and spread to make people sick. Food safety program officials typically conduct these assessments. In these types of assessments, they

  • Look for clues in the food safety system to understand and address the outbreak’s environmental causes (also known as contributing factors and environmental antecedents)
  • Involve people from different disciplines to assess all aspects of the food safety system
  • Use a broad definition of the environment to include everything external to the host. For example, this definition includes air, food, water, animals, plants, and climate, as well as people and the social and built environments.
Graphic describing environmental assessments as an essential component of outbreak investigations along with epi investigations and lab testing.

Foodborne illness is a significant problem in the United States.

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Page last reviewed: August 24, 2017