Unfortunately, Norovirus, Salmonella, staph, E coli, and Listeria are names we know all too well. These are a few of the familiar germs that cause illness after consuming certain foods. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that each year of the 31 most known agents of foodborne disease found in foods consumed in the United States there are 9.4 million illnesses, 55,961 hospitalizations, and 1,351 deaths.
“The City of St. Louis Department of Health (DOH) Food and Beverage Control Program works to minimize the risk of unsafe food in the community and empower individuals with accurate and timely information to make informed food consumption decisions,” said Dr. Patrick Naabien. Food and Beverage Control Manager for the City of St. Louis Department of Health. “A major goal of our program is to identify potential outbreaks of foodborne disease by investigating outbreaks once they occur to control them, and limit the amount of other people who will get sick during the outbreak. Thanks to some recent funding DOH received it will be able to evaluate a resource that could help improve food safety efforts in the City. The funding will assist the Department in working towards its commitment to protect public health by advancing the quality and performance of services provided to our residents and visitors.”
DOH has been granted an award from the National Environmental Health Association and the CDC to support its food and beverage control program. The Department of Health will use the funds to determine if the National Environmental Assessment Reporting System (NEARS) is a good fit for the Department’s food safety program.
“The CDC recommends using NEARS to improve food safety throughout the United States,” says Dr. Naabien. “The data collected by the system can be used during outbreak investigations and routinely from day to day when issuing permits and inspecting food service businesses. NEARS can be a key resource to help prevent foodborne illness outbreaks.”
DOH will use the recently awarded funding to evaluate whether NEARS data can assist in - identifying environmental causes of outbreaks in the city, taking follow-up action to reduce or prevent future foodborne illness outbreaks, evaluating the Department’s food safety program and make improvements based on established guidelines, developing or modifying program policies or regulations, focusing limited program resources on actions with the highest impact, and meeting the Food and Drug Administration’s Retail Food Program Standards. There are 23 local jurisdictions across the United States currently using the system.