Restaurant inspections seek to identify and correct risk factors for foodborne illness, but restaurant inspection data are not typically used more broadly as a food safety surveillance tool. In 2015, there was an outbreak of Salmonella serotype Newport infections associated with multiple restaurants in a chain (Chain A), primarily in Minnesota. The outbreak was associated with tomatoes that were likely contaminated at the point of production. The objective of this study was to demonstrate the potential usefulness of aggregated restaurant inspection data in aiding individual outbreak investigations. Reports of the last inspection for all Chain A restaurants that preceded the first reported case meal date in the outbreak were obtained from local health departments and the Minnesota Department of Health. Ordinal logistic regression was used to assess differences in risk factor and good retail practices violation categories and specific violations in restaurants with zero cases (non-outbreak restaurants) (n=25), 1-2 cases (n=16) and >3 cases (n=13). For restaurants with a âprotection from contaminationâ violation in the routine inspection that preceded the outbreak, the proportional odds ratio for outbreak level was 4.92 (95%CI: 1.57, 15.39; p-value=0.01). These findings suggest that food handling practices in the outbreak restaurants may have increased contamination of foods through cross-contamination, which in turn increased transmission at outbreak restaurants. These data suggest that aggregated data from routine inspection reports can provide useful information to aid in outbreak investigations and other foodborne illness surveillance and prevention activities.
In recent years, numerous state and local health departments have developed systems to disclose restaurant inspection results to consumers. Public disclosure of restaurant inspection results can reduce transmission of foodborne illness by driving improvements in sanitary conditions. In Minnesota, restaurant inspection results are not readily accessible for consumers to use to make decisions about where to eat. The objective of this study was to assess the consumer interest among Minnesota adults in having better access to restaurant inspection results and to identify preferred formats for disseminating this information. We conducted a survey among 1,188 Minnesota residents aged 18 years or older at the 2019 Minnesota State Fair. Overall, 94.4% of respondents wanted better access to restaurantsâ inspection information. More than three-quarters of respondents (77.1%) stated that they would use this information to decide where to eat. Respondents wanted to see inspection results online (71.6%) and at restaurants (62.1%). Increasing public access to inspection results could reinforce efforts by public health agencies and food service operators to improve the safety of foods prepared away from home.