Food Service Workers' Self-Reported Food Preparation Practices: An EHS-Net Study
This study was conducted by the Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net), a network of environmental health specialists and epidemiologists at federal and state health agencies, whose mission is to improve environmental health practice. One of EHS-Net's primary goals is to improve the understanding of the underlying causes of foodborne illness using a system-based approach. As part of this ongoing effort, EHS-Net analyzed data from a telephone survey of food service workers designed to increase our understanding of food preparation practices (a cause of foodborne illness) in restaurants. Results indicated that risky food preparation practices were commonly reported. Respondents said that at work they did not always wear gloves while touching ready-to-eat (RTE) food (60%), did not always wash their hands or change their gloves between handling raw meat and RTE food (23% and 33%), did not use a thermometer to check food temperatures (53%), and had worked while sick with vomiting or diarrhea (5%). Several factors were associated with safer food preparation practices. Workers responsible for food preparation reported washing their hands and wearing gloves when handling RTE food more often than workers not responsible for food preparation. Workers who cooked reported changing their gloves more often than workers who did not cook. Older workers and managers reported washing their hands more often than younger workers and non-managers. Workers in chain restaurants more frequently reported using thermometers than workers in independently owned restaurants. This study provides valuable information concerning the prevalence of food preparation practices and factors that may impact those practices. Additional research is needed to better understand those factors.