Last Friday. FDA hosted an industry call on new reports on retail and foodservice food safety risk factors. On the call, FDA talked about initiatives to improve food safety overall – desires to see the Food Code adopted more uniformly across local jurisdictions, expectations for developing best safety practices, thoughts about advising that every outlet have a certified food safety pro. You can hear a replay of the call from now until November 5. If you’re in the United States and Canada, dial (800) 947-6452. International callers should dial (402) 220-4085.
The call was prompted by the agency’s release of its trend analysis report, a ten-year study to measure trends in the occurrence of food preparation practices and employee behaviors at the retail and foodservice level that are believed to most commonly contribute to foodborne illness outbreaks. The report looks at nine facility types, including restaurants and produce departments. In the risk factor study, each type showed improvements, but some were statistically significant, including improvements in produce departments, fast-food restaurants, and full-service restaurants. Impressively, the improvements in produce departments met the FDA goals set in 2008. FDA officials cautioned, however, that there is still room for improvement in all facility types, particularly in three risk factors: (1) poor personal hygiene, (2) improper holding of food, and (3) contaminated food surfaces and equipment.
In the personal hygiene area, “in compliance rates” were 76% for fast food restaurants, 59% for full-service restaurants, and 85% for produce departments. The report details other factors and compliance rates if you want to dig deeper into the results and statistics.
What these results say to us, however, goes beyond numbers. As we all know, food safety is essential at every link the distribution chain. Tools such as risk assessment and risk management, training and education of all employees, instilling a food safety culture from the top down: food safety is a never-ending cycle of continuous improvement.
We offer food safety resources to our members via the PMA website, through PMA events like Fresh Connections and local grower training, through support of the Center for Produce Safety, and through blogs like Ask Dr. Bob and this one.
As we all know (and as the FDA call pointed out), when it comes to food safety, we’re never finished – there’s always something more to learn, something more to do.