Foodborne Illness Outbreak Resource Library

This resource library provides retail food regulatory professionals with a collection of vetted resources that support effective foodborne illness outbreak investigations. These resources include trainings, handouts/printouts, and guidance documents. The provided materials cover aspects of foodborne illness outbreaks from interviewing to collecting samples, pathogen-specific guidance, communication with the media, and after action reports.

The development of this collection was informed by the results of an assessment conducted in 2021 by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) in conjunction with the Retail Food Safety Regulatory Association Collaborative partners. The assessment collected information regarding outbreak response resources used by state, local, tribal, and territorial retail food safety regulatory programs throughout the U.S. After analyzing the results of the survey, NEHA conducted an environmental scan on existing tools and resources, beginning with the products of the Integrated Food Safety Centers of Excellence, to identify and collect resources that met the needs identified.

More tools and resources will be added to this page as our work continues.

Investigation Response Team Roles and Responsibilities

Identifying Your Foodborne Outbreak Investigation Team (PDF)

Printable guide to help identify the roles and responsibilities of individual team members during an outbreak investigation.

Foodborne Outbreak Investigation: What Does an Environmental Health Professional Do? (Video, 11:45 minutes)

Broad overview of the primary roles and responsibilities of an environmental health professional during a foodborne outbreak investigation.

Foodborne Outbreak Investigation: What Does an Epidemiologist Do? (Video, 21:37 minutes)

Broad overview of the primary roles and responsibilities of epidemiologists and how they work together to detect, investigate, and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks.

Foodborne Outbreak Investigation: What does a Laboratorian Do? (Video, 15:07 minutes)

Broad overview of the primary roles and responsibilities of a public health laboratorian during a foodborne illness outbreak investigation.

Response Plan Template (DOC)

Template that provides a starting point for developing a thorough enteric outbreak response plan in your jurisdiction.

Field Guides

Environmental Assessment Field Guides (Webpage)

A tool used to identify pathogens of concern and find associated field focus, identify risk factors and interventions as identified by the field focus, and consider control or investigation measures to use during an outbreak.

Root Cause Analysis for Outbreaks

Root Causes of Outbreaks (Webpage)

The resources on this CDC webpage help investigators learn more about and identify the root causes of foodborne illness outbreaks.

Environmental Assessment Training (Webpage)

Introduction or refresher on conducting environmental assessments during an outbreak investigation. Modules include an introduction to foodborne outbreak investigations, an overview of environmental assessments, contributing factors, and clinical environmental specimens.

Environmental Health Quick-Train Videos (Webpage)

Short refreshers on sampling and swabbing from assembling tools to specific considerations for listeria and salmonella.

From Inspector to Investigator: Finding the Factors That Lead to Foodborne Outbreaks (Video, 8:57 minutes)

Learn what factors contribute to outbreaks, and common ways to identify them, so you can understand how and why the outbreak occurred.

Hypothesis Generation During a Foodborne Outbreak Investigation (Video, 7:54 minutes)

Discusses hypothesis generation during a foodborne illness outbreak investigation.

Environmental Assessment Training Series (EATS) (Webpage)

Interactive training on how to conduct environmental assessments in the context of a foodborne illness outbreak investigation.

Food Related Emergency Exercise Bundle (FREE-B) (Webpage)

Eight free tabletop exercises with facilitator guides to assist government regulatory and public health agencies with food emergency response plans, protocols, and procedures.

Illness at the Inn: Case Study (Webpage)

Interactive case study designed for small groups to be led by an instructor or facilitator with experience investigating foodborne outbreaks, based on a foodborne illness outbreak at a hotel.

Pining for a Common Source, a Foodborne Illness Outbreak Investigation: Tabletop Exercise (Webpage)

This case study can be completed as a self-paced individual activity or as a moderated small group exercise. Adapted from an actual Salmonella investigation.

Interviewing Food Workers During an Outbreak Investigation

Employee Interview Form for Norovirus Investigations (DOCX) (Spanish Version)

An employee interview form that regulators can use to identify the source of a norovirus outbreak.  

Employee Interview Form for Salmonella Investigations (DOCX) (Spanish Version)

An employee interview form that regulators can use to identify the source of a Salmonella outbreak.  

Interviewing Food Workers in an Outbreak Investigation Quick-Train (Video, 15:48 minutes)

Quick training on best practices for conducting interviews of food workers and managers during an outbreak investigation.

Interview Skills for Public Health Investigations (Video, 12:32 minutes)

Highlights good interviewing skills for case investigation, contact tracing, and outbreak investigation.

Outbreak Response Training: Example Interviews (Video, 11:32 minutes)

Demonstrates how to respond to difficult interviewees during phone interviews through example interview scenarios.

The Three Phases of Effective Interviewing (Video, 19:58 minutes) 

This video teaches fundamental skills and techniques for conducting effective interviews, including the three phases of interviewing: preparing, conducting, and finishing.

Interviewing for Root Cause Analysis

Interviewing Food Workers: Just-in-Time Training (Webpage)

Quick reference for interviewing food workers during an outbreak investigation, including a printable checklist and questionnaire template.

Interviewing Managers: Just-in-Time Training (Webpage)

Quick reference for interviewing food establishment managers during an outbreak investigation including a printable checklist and questionnaire template.

Employee Illness Screening Forms

Employee Illness Screening Form for Norovirus (PDF)

Regulators can provide this form to a food establishment to help them track employee illness during a suspected norovirus outbreak. 

Employee Illness Screening Form for Salmonella (PDF)

Regulators can provide this form to a food establishment to help them track employee illness during a suspected Salmonella. 

Navigating Challenging Interviews

Challenging Interview Scenario Video Series

This series of videos walks interviewers through ten challenging interview scenarios and demonstrates techniques and tactics to help interviewers effectively navigate them.

Campylobacter

Responding to Campylobacter Illness Checklist (PDF)

A step-by-step checklist regulators can use when responding to a campylobacter illness.

Hepatitis A

Responding to a Hepatitis A Infection Checklist (PDF)

A step-by-step environmental checklist for responding to a Hepatitis A illness.

Norovirus

Norovirus Outbreak Management Toolkit (PDF)

A reference for norovirus outbreaks and investigations, including data, tools, and resources for both new and experienced investigators.

Responding to a Norovirus Outbreak Checklist (PDF)

A step-by-step checklist regulators can use when responding to a norovirus outbreak.

Salmonella

Responding to Salmonella Infection Checklist (PDF)

A step-by-step checklist regulators can use when responding to a Salmonella outbreak. 

Vibriosis

Vibriosis Outbreak Management Toolkit (PDF)

A reference for vibriosis investigations, shellfish traceback, and outbreak identification containing a variety of data, tools, and resources for both new and experienced investigators.

Responding to Vibrio Infection Checklist (PDF)

A step-by-step checklist regulators can use when responding to a vibrio infection.

Other

Responding to a Bacterial Intoxication Checklist (PDF)

A step-by-step checklist regulators can use when responding to suspected bacterial intoxication.

Clinical Samples

Rectal Swab Instructions (PDF)

Instructions for obtaining a rectal swab sample.

Amies Swab Instructions (PDF)

Instructions for obtaining a stool sample using an Amies swab.

Bulk Stool Instructions (PDF)

Instructions for obtaining a stool sample using a bulk container.

Ova and Parasite Kit Instructions (PDF)

Instructions for obtaining a stool sample for an Ova and Parasite kit.

Environmental and Food Samples

Sampling 101: How to Find Pathogens in Food Facilities (Video, 53:28 minute)

Webinar on sampling and swabbing from assembling tools to specific considerations for listeria and salmonella.

Media Communication Toolkit (PDF)

Tips, tools, and resources for successfully interacting with the media.

System for Enteric Disease Response, Investigation, and Coordination (SEDRIC) (Webpage)

A secure, cloud-based platform for foodborne and animal contact outbreak investigations.

Hotwash Report Template (PDF)

Tips for conducting a hotwash after an outbreak investigation.

Further Resources

Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR) (Webpage)

A collaboration of national associations and federal agencies working together to improve methods to detect, investigate, control, and prevent foodborne disease outbreaks.

  • CIFOR Guidelines (Webpage): A comprehensive source of information on foodborne disease investigation and control for local, state, territories, tribes, and federal health agencies.
  • CIFOR Toolkit (Webpage): Developed to help implement CIFOR Guidelines, contains worksheets and keys to success designed to help agencies identify which recommendations work best for their jurisdictions. 

Rapid Response Team (RRT) Best Practices Manual (PDF)

Manual for improving communication, traceback and trace forward, laboratory analysis, joint investigations, and inspections.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the Colorado Department of Public Health, Colorado School of Public Health, Integrated Food Safety Centers of Excellence, Minnesota Department of Health, Rocky Mountain Public Health Training Center, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration for their contributions to this resource library. 

We are always looking for additional tools and resources to help environmental health professionals prepare for and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks. If you have a resource you wish to share, please email us at Contact@RetailFoodSafetyCollaborative.org.