Having a designated food safety manager matters, according to research released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Friday.  FDA called for increased efforts to improve food safety practices in retail food establishments, specifically ensuring the presence of food safety managers. The agency pledged to work closely with state and local governments and the restaurant industry as well as grocery stores and other food service establishments to improve food safety conditions and prevent illness.

orange-magnifying-glass-featured.jpg“In looking at the data, it is quite clear that having a certified food protection manager on the job makes a difference,” said FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods Michael Taylor, citing the agency’s 10-year study that tracked the retail industry. “Some states and localities require certified food protection managers already, and many in the retail industry employ them voluntarily as a matter of good practice. We think it should become common practice.”

FDA found that the presence of a certified food protection manager in four types of facilities was correlated with significantly higher food safety compliance. For example, compliance in full service restaurants, was 70 percent with a manager and 58 percent without a manager.  In delis, compliance was 79 percent with a manager, compared to 64 percent without. In seafood markets, compliance with a manager was 88 percent, versus 82 percent without; in produce markets, compliance was 86 percent with a manager, while 79 percent without.

The 10-year study, which looked at over 800 retail food establishments in 1998, 2003 and 2008, found that compliance improved in all nine types of establishments studied, including elementary schools, fast food restaurants, full-service restaurants, and meat and poultry departments.

In addition to pushing for designated food safety management on the retail level, Taylor said the agency would encourage uniform adoption of the FDA Model Food Code by state, local and tribal regulatory agencies that are responsible for retail food safety standard setting and inspection.

“The key to food safety is prevention at every step from farm to table. Food retail managers, like growers and processors, have a responsibility to reduce the risk of foodborne illness,” Taylor said. “We want to build on past progress through continued collaboration with the retail industry and strengthened partnerships with state, local and tribal agencies in their standard-setting and compliance efforts.”

 FDA’s Trend Analysis Report from 1998 to 2008 can be viewed online.