The FDA has released its Retail Risk Factor Survey and 2010 Trends Report, a study produced every five years to assess 10 years worth of food safety at restaurants and elsewhere. Despite some wins for food safety in the fast food and casual restaurant segments, the report majorly pointed to the need for certified food safety managers to oversee safety practices in foodservice industries.
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 FDA found that overall compliance improved in all nine categories of establishments. The improvements were statistically significant in fast food and full-service restaurants, among other categories. However, the report cited continued improvements needed in three particular risk factor spaces: poor personal hygiene, improper holding of food, and contaminated food surfaces and equipment.
A component of the study, the 2009 retail food report, found that the presence of a certified food protection manager was correlated with statistically significant higher compliance levels with food safety practices and behaviors. For instance, compliance in full service restaurants was 70 percent with a manager, versus 58 percent without a manager. In delicatessens, compliance was 79 percent with a manager, versus 64 percent without.
The FDA also called for increased efforts for adoption of its National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards by state, local and tribal agencies that enforce the Food Code and other measures. The National Council of Chain Restaurants has called for such standardization to make compliance easier for the industry.
It's a sticking point between the two agencies: NCCR president Jack Whipple was quoted in a company statement that expressed the group’s frustrations after the FDA announced its survey findings. Some of the non-compliance issues found in the FDA report involved failure to meet standards recommended by the FDA but not adopted in local health codes. NCCR believes Congress should amend the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to require all state and local jurisdictions to adopt the FDA Model Food Code, and that state and local authorities should do so voluntarily in the meantime.
“A single Food Code would help avoid confusion by the industry and local inspectors,” Whipple said. “Uniform national standards would ensure that all jurisdictions operate under rules that are risk-based and supported by the latest science in the interest of public health. The lack of national standards is a hindrance to improving food safety.”