The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has been an integral part of the Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net) for ten years and impacted retail food safety at a national level. In support of the Healthy People 2020 Food Safety goals, HEALTH aims to reduce foodborne illnesses, disabilities, and death through interventions that target reducing food contamination from ill food workers, reducing hand contamination, improving controls through certified kitchen managers always being present during food preparation at food establishments, and improving regulatory effectiveness. Each intervention builds on prior EHS-Net findings that have identified factors associated with food safety issues, but shifts the research paradigm by utilizing a systems approach aimed at achieving maximum impact by targeting the culture of food safety at food service establishments. Reducing illnesses and outbreaks due to ill food workers will be the focus of the first two years of the grant. RI EHS-Net will deliver an intervention packet to all RI food establishments, reinforce with inspections, and compare critical violations before and after the intervention delivery. Behavioral factors will be evaluated at a subset of establishments and compared pre and post intervention using a survey designed to measure indicators of a positive food safety culture. Other proposed interventions will follow similar designs and be conducted in the years that follow. Results from the Certified Kitchen Manager intervention could be used to justify changing the Food Code to require a certified manager during all food preparation, or to mimic the Rhode Island law which allows requiring a CKM at all times if there are serious repeat operational violations. HEALTH has established an effective collaborative structure to achieve the outlined objectives. The Office of Food Protection, Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, and the State Health Laboratory are centrally located and will ensure effective, coordinated responses. The University of Rhode Island also supports this statewide initiative. HEALTH will collaborate with EHS-Net in the data analysis of all EHS-Net research projects. Results will be disseminated to the public health community through scientific journals, presentations, possible changes to the Food Code, and other means to encourage national changes in food safety practices.

Public Health Relevance

In support of the Environmental Health Specialist Network (EHS-Net) goals, the Rhode Island Department of Health aims to reduce foodborne illness through behavioral and system-based interventions that evaluate improvements in active managerial control at retail food establishments. An intervention that targets reducing food contamination from ill food handlers will be the focus of the first two grant years, and the impact of requiring a certified kitchen manager at all times will be evaluated in subsequent years, along with other projects. Rhode Island has demonstrated the ability to impact food safety nationally as an EHS-Net site for ten years, and is well-positioned to sustain progress during this grant period.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH)
Research Project--Cooperative Agreements (U01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZEH1)
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Rhode Island State Department of Health
United States
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