U.S – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a report detailing the occurrence of foodborne illness risk factors in fast food and full-service restaurants.

This report is part of an ongoing 10-year study aimed at identifying trends in foodborne illness risk factors and food safety practices in foodservice facilities.

The study focuses on data collected from 2017 to 2018, which will be compared to baseline data from 2013 to assess trends.

The study employed trained data collectors who observed and recorded food safety practices in retail food establishments during normal business hours.

The goal was to identify both the least and most frequently occurring foodborne illness risk factors and food safety behaviors. The presence of a food safety management system (FSMS) and a certified food protection manager (CFPM) were also examined for their impact on risk factor occurrence.

The study included 421 fast food restaurants and 430 full-service restaurants. Approximately 70 percent of the establishments operated in jurisdictions requiring a CFPM, and most restaurants had a CFPM present during data collection.

Restaurants demonstrated better control over inadequate cooking, while improvements were needed in areas such as improper holding/time and temperature, personal hygiene, employee handwashing, cold-holding refrigerated foods, and proper food cooling.

Significance of FSMS and CFPM

The study identified FSMS as the strongest predictor of compliance, with well-developed systems associated with fewer out-of-compliance food safety behaviors/practices.

Restaurants with a CFPM present and in charge during data collection also showed better compliance.

However, multivariate analysis indicated that the presence of a CFPM alone did not significantly predict compliance, suggesting that both FSMS and the presence of a CFPM play crucial roles.

Restaurants with a CFPM in charge throughout operation hours exhibited higher average FSMS scores, indicating that continuous CFPM presence could enhance FSMS and reduce out-of-compliance practices.

Future studies could focus on identifying factors contributing to poor food safety practices and developing cost-effective intervention strategies.

Exploring the relationship between employee health policies and FSMS is also recommended, along with considering the adoption of Food Code recommendations as regulatory requirements.

The FDA’s study provides valuable insights into foodborne illness risk factors in restaurants. Further research could investigate the root causes of poor food safety behaviors and explore effective intervention strategies.

Identifying barriers related to the implementation of employee health policies and considering their adoption as regulatory requirements are additional areas of interest for enhancing retail food protection.

The FDA is working collaboratively with the foodservice industry to strengthen food safety practices.

Ongoing efforts include providing guidance, conducting inspections, and promoting educational initiatives to ensure the highest standards of food safety in restaurants across the country.

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