By Erin Roberts, MPH, Program Analyst, Environmental Health, Pandemic Preparedness & Catastrophic Response and Amy Chang, MS, Program Assistant, Environmental Health at NACCHO.
Local health departments (LHDs) are on the front lines of foodborne illness prevention and response. In the face of budget cuts and staff reductions, LHDs are responsible for food safety inspections, epidemiological surveillance, the investigation of foodborne illness, and educating the public on food safety.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released two e-learning tools that will assist LHDs in their work around food safety. The first is a free, interactive course on Environmental Assessment of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks. The course teaches participants how to investigate foodborne illness outbreaks as part of a larger team, how to identify the environmental causes of an outbreak, and how to form recommendations around control measures.
The second tool is the National Voluntary Environmental Assessment Information System (NVEAIS). LHDs are encouraged to register and provide data pulled from their foodborne illness investigations. The system fosters information sharing between LHDs to improve response to, and prevention of, future outbreaks.
For additional resources, NACCHO has several food safety initiatives to support local health departments:
- NACCHO works with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to increase the use of the FDA Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards (Retail Program Standards), a continuous quality improvement and quality assurance program that helps LHDs achieve optimal performance in food safety programs, services, and processes. The NACCHO Mentorship Program partners LHDs together to implement the Retail Program Standards. Participating LHDs benefit from the experience of other LHDs in best applying the Retail Program Standards to their food protection programs. NACCHO has also collaborated with FDA to develop a crosswalk that outlines the areas of alignment between the Retail Program Standards and the Public Health Accreditation Board’s Standards and Measures.
- NACCHO co-chairs the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR), a multidisciplinary working group that aims to reduce the burden of foodborne illness. They publish the CIFOR Guidelines for Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response, which guides LHDs on how to prepare for, detect, investigate, and control a foodborne illness outbreak. Find additional CIFOR resources.
- NACCHO works closely with LHDs through its Food Safety Workgroup and the Food Safety Toolkit. NACCHO staff also participate in national-level initiatives including the Partnership for Food Protection, the National School Safety Coalition, the Food Safety Modernization Act Working Group, and Government Coordinating Council Food and Agriculture Sector.
- NACCHO, in collaboration with the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) at CDC, selected twelve local health departments to implement innovative programs in food safety within their health departments and communities. The twelve projects focused on infrastructure, marketing, training, and program assessment. Read the report.