The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released its report on a study of foodborne illness risk factors in retail food store deli departments. 

This study is part of a 10-year initiative that examines when foodborne illness risk factors, such as employees practicing poor personal hygiene, and food safety practices, like improper handwashing, occur; and their relationship to Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) and Certified Food Protection Managers (CFPM). Data for this study were collected between 2015 and 2016.

The FDA observed that delis with well-developed Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) were more likely to properly control foodborne illness risk factors than delis with less developed FSMS. Also, delis with a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) who is the person in charge have significantly better developed FSMS than delis that do not have a CFPM.

Analysis of the study data showed that deli departments had the best control over:

  • ensuring no bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods
  • cooking raw animal foods to required temperatures

In contrast, the most common food safety behaviors and practices needing better control included:

  • ensuring employees practiced proper handwashing
  • holding foods requiring refrigeration at the proper temperature
  • cooling foods properly

Foodborne illness remains a major public health concern in the U.S., causing approximately 48 million illnesses and 3,000 deaths each year and costing roughly $77.7 billion dollars annually.  Food safety practices in retail food establishments continue to play a critical role in preventing foodborne illness. Studies such as this serve as a source of information to help decision-makers take steps that will reduce the occurrence of risk factors responsible for causing foodborne illness, according to the FDA. 

These findings also help the FDA prioritize the development of educational resources to inform, engage, and empower local retail food industry, state, local, territorial, and tribal authorities, and other government agencies. The FDA will continue to provide technical assistance to regulatory professionals, industry partners, and consumers to enhance retail food safety nationwide.

This study will also help inform our upcoming activities on modernizing traditional retail food safety approaches.  

The FDA is exploring ways to further modernize and help ensure the safety of foods sold at restaurants and other retail establishments as part of its work on the New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative. 

The New Era blueprint outlines goals that include strengthening food safety protections through the use of FSMS and risk‑based inspectional approaches, as well as exploring the use of new digital tools and smart kitchen equipment that could help minimize risks.

For questions, please contact the FDA National Retail Food Team at retailfoodpolicyteam@fda.hhs.gov.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.) 

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