Norovirus Outbreaks and Restaurant Practices

Graphic image of a restaurant store front

Among restaurants with norovirus outbreaks, we found that outbreaks were smaller and shorter when restaurants had certain practices. Our findings suggest that restaurants can take steps to reduce the impact of outbreaks by

  • Having managers on staff who are certified in food safety.
  • Providing on-the-job food safety training for managers and food workers and additional classroom training for food workers.
  • Having cleaning policies for surfaces where food is prepared.
Understanding practices linked with smaller and shorter outbreaks helps restaurants take steps to help control and prevent norovirus outbreaks.

Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States. Restaurants are the most common setting for these kinds of outbreaks. Although norovirus outbreaks linked to restaurants can affect hundreds of people and last for weeks or even months, some are smaller and shorter. Understanding the practices linked with smaller and shorter outbreaks can help restaurants focus on steps they can take to help prevent outbreaks or reduce their impact.

We examined restaurant, manager, and worker practices linked with smaller and shorter norovirus outbreaks. This information was reported to CDC’s National Environmental Assessment Reporting System (NEARS) and CDC’s Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System (FDOSS).

Several practices were related to outbreak size, and a few to outbreak length.
Graphic image shows two food workers with a certified stamp.

Outbreaks were smaller when

  • Restaurants had at least one manager certified in food safety.
  • Restaurant managers received on-the-job food safety training.
  • Food workers received food safety training both on the job and in a classroom setting.
  • Food workers wore gloves.
  • Restaurants had cleaning policies.

Outbreaks were shorter when

  • Restaurant managers were trained in food safety.
  • Restaurants used simple food preparation processes that did not require cooling or other temperature control processes.

These findings suggest that restaurants can incorporate practices to help reduce the size and length of foodborne norovirus outbreaks and even prevent some outbreaks from happening at all.

Health departments report outbreak data to CDC.

State, local, territorial, and tribal health departments report outbreak information to CDC. NEARS captures environmental assessment data from investigations of foodborne illness outbreaks linked to restaurants, banquet facilities, schools, and other institutions. FDOSS captures epidemiologic and laboratory data from foodborne outbreak investigations. Health departments use the National Outbreak Reporting System to report data to FDOSS.

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Page last reviewed: September 4, 2020