Food

FDA Retail Food Risk Factor Study: Background Information

Introduction

In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) National Retail Food Team initiated a three-phase, 10-year study to measure the occurrence of practices and behaviors commonly identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as contributing factors in foodborne illness outbreaks. Data were collected in 1998, 2003, and 2008. The FDA Trend Analysis Report on the Occurrence of Foodborne Illness Risk Factors in Selected Institutional Foodservice, Restaurants, and Retail Food Store Facility Types (1998-2008) presents the results of data. They show that progress has been made toward the goal of reducing the occurrence of foodborne illness risk factors at retail, although work remains to be done in some areas.

In each phase of the study, compliance data was collected during visits by FDA personnel to roughly 850 foodservice and retail food establishments to observe and document practices and behaviors that relate to operational risk factors commonly associated with foodborne illness outbreaks. The study covered nine facility types in three categories:

Institutional Foodservice

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing Homes
  • Elementary Schools (K-5)

Restaurants

  • Fast Food Restaurants
  • Full Service Restaurants

Retail Food Stores

  • Deli Departments/Stores
  • Meat and Poultry Markets/Departments
  • Seafood Markets/Departments
  • Produce Markets/Departments

For each of the nine facility types, the percentages of observations recorded as “out of compliance” is presented for each risk factor and for the individual specific practices or behaviors included within those risk factors, to show where improvement is needed.

The Trend report highlights “in compliance” percentages to show where improvements have been made over the 10-year period. The methodology used to detect trends was the Cochran Armitage trend test. The data presented in the 2009 report indicate that some of the same risk factors and data items identified as problem areas in the 2000 and 2004 reports remain in need of priority attention.

Results of the Studies

The data contained in the Trend Analysis Report suggest that the control of certain foodborne illness risk factors improved over the 10-year period from 1998 to 2008 in most facility types. None of the facility types showed a statistically significant decline in compliance for any of the foodborne illness risk factors. However, continued improvements are needed with regard to three risk factors: (1) poor personal hygiene, (2) improper holding of food, and (3) contaminated food surfaces and equipment.

The 2009 Report indicates that many of the same risk factors and data items identified as problem areas in the 2000 and 2004 reports remain in need of priority attention and that recommendations made in the earlier reports must continue to be emphasized in industry food safety efforts and by regulatory and public health officials.

The 2004 and 2009 reports revealed a correlation between improved control of certain risk factors and the presence of a Certified Food Protection Manager in many of the facility types studied.

Eight of the nine facility types showed statistically significant improvement in the control of at least one foodborne illness risk factor. All risk factors for nursing homes stayed relatively static during the study period. 

Poor Personal Hygiene Risk Factor

In seven of the nine facility types, a statistically significant improvement in the Poor Personal Hygiene risk factor was observed. Despite that improvement, the “in compliance” percentages for this risk factor remained low in 2008 in some facility types (shown in parentheses below).

  • Hospitals (83%)
  • Nursing Homes (84%)
  • Elementary Schools (85%)
  • Fast Food Restaurants (76%)
  • Full Service Restaurants (59%)
  • Delis (80%)
  • Meat and Poultry Markets/Departments (93%)
  • Seafood Markets/Departments (91%)
  • Produce Markets/Departments (85%)

In facility types that had relatively low “in compliance” percentages for the Poor Personal Hygiene risk factor, the specific data item most typically low was proper and adequate hand washing. Following are the “in compliance” percentages for proper and adequate hand washing by facility type:

  • Hospitals (64%)
  • Nursing Homes (66%)
  • Elementary Schools (72%)
  • Fast Food Restaurants (61%)
  • Full Service Restaurants (24%)
  • Delis (48%)
  • Meat and Poultry Markets/Departments (82%)
  • Seafood Markets/Departments (78%)
  • Produce Markets/Departments (75%) 

Improper Holding (Time and Temperature)

While a statistically significant improvement in the Improper Holding/Time and Temperature risk factor was observed in five of the nine facility types, the “in compliance” percentages for this risk factor remained low in 2008 in some facility types (shown in parentheses below).

  • Hospitals (64%)
  • Nursing Homes (71%)
  • Elementary Schools (73%)
  • Fast Food Restaurants (62%)
  • Full Service Restaurants (45%)
  • Delis (49%)
  • Meat and Poultry Markets/Departments (80%)
  • Seafood Markets/Departments (68%)
  • Produce Markets/Departments (65%) 

Contaminated Equipment/Protection from Contamination

A statistically significant improvement in the Contaminated Equipment/Protection from Contamination risk factor was observed in one of the nine facility types—full service restaurants. The “In compliance” percentages for this risk factor were as follows:

  • Hospitals (82%)
  • Nursing Homes (83%)
  • Elementary School (85%)
  • Fast Food Restaurants (83%)
  • Full Service Restaurants (65%)
  • Delis (81%)
  • Meat and Poultry Markets/Departments (83%)
  • Seafood Markets/Departments (86%)
  • Produce Markets/Departments (84%)

Page Last Updated: 11/06/2014
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