F.D.A. focuses on in-store food safety

by Staff
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WASHINGTON — Having a certified food safety manager on staff at retail and food service establishments translates into improved food safety practices, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s “Retail risk factor survey and 2010 trends” report, a study that was developed over 10 years. With that insight, the agency is working with state and local public health agencies to inform retailers and food service operators of what they may do to prevent foodborne illness.

“In looking at the data, it is quite clear that having a certified food protection manager on the job makes a difference,” said Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner of the F.D.A. “Some states and localities require certified food protection managers already, and many in the retail industry employ them voluntarily as a matter of good practice. We think it should become common practice.”

The insight emerged from the study and showed that the presence of a certified food protection manager was statistically correlated with high compliance levels for food safety practices. The study showed, for example, that compliance in full-service restaurants was 70% with a manager, versus 58% without a manager. In delicatessens, compliance was 79% with a manager, versus 64% without. For seafood markets, compliance with a manager was 88%, versus 82% without. And in produce markets, compliance was 86% with a manager, versus 79% without.

The 10-year study looked at more than 800 retail food establishments in 1998, 2003 and 2008 and five risk factors: food from unsafe sources, poor personal hygiene, inadequate cooking, improper holding of food (time and temperature), and contaminated food surfaces and equipment.

“The key to food safety is prevention at every step from farm to table,” Mr. Taylor said. “Food retail managers, like growers and processors, have a responsibility to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. We want to build on past progress through continued collaboration with the retail industry and strengthened partnerships with state, local and tribal agencies in their standard-setting and compliance efforts.”
The National Council of Chain Restaurants announced its support for the report and the new effort under way at the F.D.A.

“Food safety is the highest priority of chain restaurants,” said Jack Whipple, president of the N.C.C.R. “This report found that restaurants are getting better at meeting food safety requirements even as those standards are being strengthened.”

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