Gaps in food safety professionals' knowledge about noroviruses
Noroviruses (NoVs) are the most common etiologic agents of endemic and epidemic foodborne disease in the United States. Food safety professionals play an important role in protecting the public from foodborne illness. A survey of food safety professionals (n = 314) was conducted to characterize their knowledge of NoVs and to identify gaps in this knowledge. To recruit individuals, 25 professional organizations promoted the survey via their Web sites, newsletters, and/or e-mail distribution lists. The survey used true or false and open-ended questions to assess knowledge about NoVs, including attribution, transmission, and prevention and control strategies, including food handling practices. The online survey was available from mid-October 2012 to mid-January 2013. Of the 314 respondents, 66.2% correctly identified NoVs as one of the three most common causes of foodborne disease in the United States. Only 5.4% of respondents correctly identified the three most common settings for NoV infections, and 65.0% of respondents had the misperception that cruise ships are one of the three most common settings. Seventeen respondents (5.4%) answered all 20 true-or-false questions correctly, 33 respondents (10.5%) answered at least 19 of the 20 questions correctly, and 186 respondents (65.0%) answered at least 15 of the 20 questions correctly (i.e., a score of 75% or higher). The content domain in which respondents had the most incorrect answers was food handling practices. Thirty-eight percent of respondents incorrectly responded that it is safe for restaurant workers infected with NoVs to handle packaged food, food equipment, and utensils. About half of respondents did not know the recommended sanitizing solution for eliminating NoVs from a contaminated surface. The survey findings identified several important gaps in food safety professionals' knowledge of NoVs. The study results will inform the development of a Web-based educational module on NoVs to improve efforts to prevent the spread of NoVs in retail and institutional food establishments.