February 15, 2017

How to Reduce Foodborne Illness Outbreaks in Restaurants

Written by SmartSense

 1 in 6 Americans contract a foodborne illness each year. Many illnesses occur from food consumed at restaurants. 

The CDC lists Norovirus, C. perfringens, Salmonella and Campylobacter as the most common foodborne illnesses in the United States. Norovirus is spread through human contact. Salmonella and Campylobacter are typically caused by improper food storage and preparation.

Reducing outbreaks within restaurants is a team effort. Each person plays an important role in preventing outbreaks. 


Managers lead the way in preventing foodborne illnesses. It’s the role of the manager to train and enforce proper behaviors. Employees must understand the benefits and practice proper food safety at all times. 

Food safety plans and checklists, like HACCP, are important to establish in your restaurant. Plans should outline how to properly prepare and store food within the restaurant. Checklists should be reviewed daily to ensure compliance.

Managers shouldn’t penalize employees for calling out sick. Many outbreaks of Norovirus occur when an infected employee shows up for work and inadvertently spreads the virus. It is better to be short-staffed than to deal with the backlash of an outbreak of Norovirus.

Kitchen Staff 

The entire kitchen staff plays a role in ensuring food safety. Food preparation employees must prevent cross-contamination by sanitizing surfaces and tools between ingredients. Anyone handling food should wash their hands regularly and wear gloves at all times. 

Produce must be washed thoroughly before use. For extra sanitization, restaurants can use specialized cleansers or a produce brush, which kill harmful bacteria on fresh produce. 

Bacteria quickly multiplies at warmer temps. Food should be stored properly in a temperature monitored environment to prevent bacteria from forming. Installing a temperature monitoring system in your refrigerators and using a temperature probe on the line can help ensure proper temperatures are maintained.

Many foodborne illnesses are caused by undercooked food. Cooking temperatures need to be monitored closely to ensure that food is safe to be consumed. We’ve seen many outbreaks due to improper cooking temperature.

It’s the responsibility of all food service professionals to ensure that the food served is safe for consumption. If everyone does their part, restaurant outbreaks can be reduced. 

Download our Food Safety Ebook to learn how to protect your restaurant (and your brand) from the common sources of contamination.

Topics: Food Safety

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