This article, the sixth in a series reviewing the role of food workers in foodborne outbreaks, describes the source and means of pathogen transfer. The transmission and survival of enteric pathogens in the food processing and preparation environment through human and raw food sources is reviewed, with the main objective of providing information critical to the reduction of illness due to foodborne outbreaks. Pathogens in the food preparation area can originate from infected food workers, raw foods, or other environmental sources. These pathogens can then spread within food preparation or processing facilities through sometimes complex pathways and may infect one or more workers or the consumer of foods processed or prepared by these infected workers. The most frequent means of worker contamination is the fecal-oral route, and study results have indicated that toilet paper may not stop transmission of pathogens to hands. However, contact with raw foods of animal origin, worker aerosols (from sneezes), vomitus, and exposed hand lesions also have been associated with outbreaks. Transfer of pathogens has been documented through contaminated fabrics and carpets, rings, currency, skin surfaces, dust, and aerosols and though person-to-person transmission. Results of experiments on pathogen survival have indicated that transmission depends on the species, the inoculum delivery route, the contact surface type, the duration and temperature of exposure, and the relative humidity. Generally, viruses and encysted parasites are more resistant than enteric bacteria to adverse environmental conditions, but all pathogens can survive long enough for transfer from a contaminated worker to food, food contact surfaces, or fellow workers.

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