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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

For Federal, State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Officials

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Retail Food Protection Program


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FDA's Retail Food Protection Program provides assistance to the more than 2,300 state, local, tribal, and territorial government agencies that regulate the retail food industry nationally. The primary objective of the program is to prevent foodborne illness at the retail level of the food industry by directing activities toward promotion of effective state, local, tribal, and territorial regulatory programs. These agencies inspect and regulate more than one million food establishments (restaurants, grocery stores, health facilities and nursing homes, schools, correctional facilities, temporary event food service, food vending facilities, etc.). Total national food service and grocery industry sales each rank in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually. It is also estimated that the American public now consumes more than 50% of their meals outside the home. FDA's National Retail Food team (NRFT) is comprised of staff from the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) (i.e., Regional Retail Food Specialists, Directors of State Cooperative Programs, Office of Partnerships'  (OP) Retail Food Program Specialists, several trainers from the Division of Human Resource Development (DHRD), the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, several Consumer Safety Officers, support staff and their managers). Agencies regulating this multi-billion dollar industry look to the FDA National Retail Food Team for leadership, technical assistance with the FDA Food Code, Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards, training, and standardization.  

Retail Food Inspection

Questions regarding the Retail Food Program and how OP can assist you?  Contact Alan Tart

Through various initiatives, members of the FDA National Retail Food Team have an impact on the public health across the country that far exceeds their direct involvement. FDA’s National Retail Food Team influences the programs of hundreds of agencies and thousands State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial employees. The Retail Food Protection Program in FDA is the model for a nationally integrated fod safety system. The FDA National Retail Food Team is committed to maximizing the cooperative programs effort by leveraging our limited resources to increase the effectiveness of State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial regulatory programs to protect the public health. 

FDA's Role in the Retail Food Program

Read more about the Retail Food Cooperative Program here.

Retail Food Inspection

FDA Retail Food Protection Program & the Conference for Food Protection

FDA signed an MOU with the Conference for Food Protection in 1993. The stated purpose of this MOU is to establish a working relationship between the Conference and FDA to: 
  • Place greater emphasis on food safety at the point of retail sale; and
  • Promote food safety uniformity, mutual respect, and communication.


FDA Retail Food Safety Initiative

In October 2010, FDA launched a Retail Food Safety Initiative as part of its prevention-based, farm-to-table food safety strategy to reduce foodborne illness. The FDA action items in this initiative are supported by the 2009 release of a trend analysis report that summarizes a 10-year study of more than 800 retail food establishments to determine occurrence of foodborne illness risk factors in nine select retail and foodservice facility types. Planned action steps in this initiative include:
  • Strengthening active managerial controls at the retail level and ensure better compliance. Food safety is enhanced when managers assess their food safety systems, implement appropriate procedures and training, and actively monitor compliance with those systems to reduce risk in retail operations. In order to broaden the use of these tools throughout the industry, FDA will work with its partners to assess the effectiveness of various managerial control strategies, identifying and sharing best practices, and verifying their implementation by food retail facilities. FDA, working with the Conference for Food Protection disclaimer icon , will also consider modifications to the FDA Food Code to promote best practices.
  • Making the presence of certified food protection managers common practice. Data from the 2004 and 2008 collection periods point to a correlation between the presence of a certified food protection manager and better food safety practices and behaviors. FDA will work with its partners to encourage and facilitate the development of effective training and certification for food handlers, addressing the challenges of providing training for a workforce with a high turnover rate and with various educational and cultural backgrounds. FDA, working with the Conference for Food Protection disclaimer icon, will consider modifications to the Food Code to expand the presence of certified food protection managers.
  • Encouraging widespread, uniform, and complete adoption of the FDA Food Code. FDA will work with the retail industry and state, local, tribal, and territorial regulatory authorities to ensure that prevention-oriented, science-based food safety principles are used at the retail level. The Food Code sets standards for management and personnel, food operations and equipment and facilities.
  • Creating an enhanced local regulatory environment for retail food operations. FDA will: 

1. Promote wider implementation by state, local, tribal, and territorial regulatory programs of the FDA Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards;

2. Seek increased multi-year funding for the state, local, tribal, and territorial programs as part of an integrated food safety system; and

3. Develop programs to ensure universal participation by local regulators in consistent, high-quality training.


Regional Retail Food Specialist Resources

Regional Retail Food Program Webpages:

  • Northeast Regional Office Retail Food Program Webpage
  • Pacific Regional Office Retail Food Program Webpage
  • Southeast Regional Office Retail Food Program Webpage
  • Southwest Regional Office Retail Food Program Webpage

Retail Food Program Policy, Guidance and other Resources

Http://www.fda.gov/RetailFoodProtection - This webpage, maintained by the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, contains numerous resources for the Retail Food Protection Program, including information on: 

Training Resources

Other Resources




























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