An environmental assessment is an investigation to learn what factors may have contributed to an outbreak of foodborne illness or a food contamination event. When either occur, the agency’s first priority is to respond quickly to minimize the number of illnesses. Once an outbreak or contamination event is contained, the focus shifts to learning the likely cause and contributing factors and identifying preventive controls to prevent reoccurrence of a similar event.
The EA team will start the investigation by looking at the information that was learned during the outbreak, including potential contamination sources such as farms, processing/manufacturing food facilities, distribution warehouses, retail food distributers or restaurants, and more. They will use this information to conduct site visits where necessary at the places described above, as well as examining nearby agricultural operations, water sources, and animal habitats that may have contributed to the contamination event.
During these visits the EA team will generally interview management and staff about food safety policies and procedures. They will walk through the site and document information and observations on any variables that may have negatively influenced the food safety system at the time of the outbreak. The team will also collect environmental samples to determine if a link to the outbreak strain exists from that location. In addition, the team will examine information such as food source records, process monitoring logs, written policies for personal hygiene, facility design diagrams and recipes.
After assessing the information collected and identifying factors that potentially led to the outbreak or contamination event, the EA team will provide recommendations to the farm, facility, or industry that will include measures that can be taken to prevent similar contamination from occurring in the future. Findings from the environmental assessment may also prompt regulatory action where appropriate.
A final report summarizing each investigation will be made available to the public on FDA’s website. These environmental assessments help identify outbreak and contamination trends and preventive controls that may be more broadly applicable to the industry.
Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Romaine Lettuce Implicated in a Multi-State Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 November 2018
This assessment provides an overview of factors that potentially contributed to the contamination of romaine lettuce with E. coli O157:H7 that was implicated in a 2018 multi-state foodborne illness outbreak.
Environmental Assessment: 2013 Cyclosporiasis outbreak in Iowa and Nebraska – Findings and Recommendations November 2013
This repost documents the environmental assessment conducted August 12 – 19, 2013 in response to a 2013 multi-state foodborne illness outbreak of Cyclospora cayetanensis. Epidemiologic and traceback investigations by the states of Iowa and Nebraska, the CDC and the FDA linked salad mix supplied by Taylor Farms de Mexico to Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants, which are owned by Darden Restaurants, to the outbreak. Five ranches in Guanajuato, Mexico, were assessed as part of this assessment, as was the Taylor Farms de Mexico processing facility.
Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Fresh Whole Cantaloupe Implicated in a Multi-State Outbreak of Salmonellosis February 2013
This assessment provides an overview of FDA’s findings and observations of factors that potentially contributed to the contamination of fresh, whole cantaloupe with the pathogen Salmonella Typhimurium and/or Salmonella Newport, which was implicated in a 2012 multi-state outbreak of salmonellosis.
Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Fresh Whole Cantaloupe Implicated in a Multi-State Outbreak of Listeriosis October 2011
This assessment provides an overview of factors that potentially contributed to the contamination of fresh, whole cantaloupe with the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes, which was implicated in a 2011 multi-state outbreak of listeriosis.
Non-O157 Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli (STEC) Environmental Assessment - Findings and Potential Preventive Control Strategies December 2010
This assessment was performed to determine how romaine lettuce implicated in a 2010 E. coli O145 outbreak may have become contaminated with the pathogen.