Local health departments (LHDs) are on the front lines of foodborne illness prevention and response. According to the 2013 National Profile of Local Health Departments, 78% of LHDs provide food service establishment inspections and 72% of LHDs provide food safety education in their jurisdictions.
September marks the 20th anniversary of National Food Safety Month (NFSM), an initiative by the National Restaurant Association designed to heighten the importance of food safety education. Each week highlights a different food safety issue—such as cleaning and sanitizing, cross-contamination, and personal hygiene—with educational activities and posters. Visit the NFSM website for more information.
NACCHO and its public health partners have also developed a variety of resources to help LHDs provide food safety services.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released two eLearning tools to assist LHDs in their food safety work. Environmental Assessment of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks is a free interactive course that teaches participants how to (1) investigate foodborne illness outbreaks as part of a larger team; (2) identify the environmental causes of an outbreak; and (3) recommend control measures.
The second CDC tool is the National Voluntary Environmental Assessment Information System, which fosters information-sharing between LHDs to improve response to, and prevention of, future outbreaks. CDC encourages LHDs to register and provide data about their foodborne illness investigations.
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. NACCHO’s Retail Program Standards 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. The council publishes 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 also works closely with LHDs through its Food Safety Workgroup and the Food Safety Toolkit. NACCHO staff participate in national 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 at CDC, selected 12 LHDs to implement innovative programs in food safety within their health departments and communities. The projects focused on infrastructure, marketing, training, and program assessment. Read the report.
For more information, visit NACCHO’s food safety webpage.