New Study: Foodborne Illness Outbreaks at Retail Food Establishments

A new study found that norovirus was the most commonly identified cause of foodborne illness outbreaks reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Environmental Assessment Reporting System (NEARS) from 2017-2019. Approximately 40% of outbreaks with identified contributing factors were contributed to contamination of food by ill or infectious food workers. Although a majority of managers reported their establishment had an ill worker policy, often these policies were missing components intended to reduce foodborne illness risk.

To prevent the spread of illness from sick workers, detailed policies that promote handwashing and safe food handling should also include and enforce policies that require workers with certain symptoms to:

  • Notify their managers, and
  • Stay home or not work with food.