The U.S. FDA recently released its findings from the initial phase of a 10-year study that is evaluating trends in food preparation practices and employee behaviors that contribute to foodborne illness outbreaks in the retail setting.
The “Report on the Occurrence of Foodborne Illness Risk Factors in Fast Food and Full Service Restaurants, 2013-2014” represents the first data collection period of the FDA’s 10-year study, which started in 2013 and will conclude in 2023. Data from the 2013-2014 collection will be used as a baseline to assess trends in the occurrence of risk factors during subsequent data collections, in 2017 and 2021 in fast food and full-service restaurants. Additional data collections in 2015, 2019, and 2023 investigate similar retail food safety research questions in institutional food service settings and retail food stores.
According to FDA, this national observational study is investigating the relationship between food safety management systems, certified food protection managers, and the occurrence of risk factors and food safety behaviors/practices commonly associated with foodborne illness in restaurants. The primary study objectives for the 2013-2014 data collection period were to:
- Identify the least and most often occurring foodborne illness risk factors and food safety behaviors/practices in restaurants within the U.S.;
- Determine the extent to which food safety management systems and the presence of a certified food protection manager impact the occurrence of food safety behaviors/practices, and;
- Determine whether the occurrence of food safety behaviors/practices in restaurants differs based on an establishment’s risk categorization (the number of times the establishment has been inspected based on the risk associated with the complexity of food preparation in the food establishment) and status as a single-unit or multiple-unit operation (whether the establishment is a part of a chain or not).
Key findings from the information collected during the 2013-2014 restaurant data collection period showed there remains a need to gain better control over employee handwashing and proper temperature control of foods that require refrigeration (cold holding of foods).
FDA’s National Retail Food Team will continue to work with stakeholders, such as the National Restaurant Association, National Council of Chain Restaurants, restaurant chain companies, and state restaurant associations in addressing food safety behaviors/practices in need of attention.