WASHINGTON, D.C. - Contrary to general assumptions, fast-food restaurants are more likely to be in compliance with food safety practices than full-service restaurants, according to a recent study on foodborne illness risk factors from the FDA’s National Retail Food Team.
As reported by The Acheson Group, a food safety consulting organization, recently released data from 2013-2014 is the first phase of the FDA’s 10-year study into practices and behaviors that contribute to foodborne illness at retail.
A key takeaway from the report is that the important areas of focus are simple: temperature control and handwashing.
With the goal of providing insights for restaurant management, the study is reviewing the relationship between food safety management systems, certified food protection managers and the occurrence of risk factors associated with foodborne illness.
This first phase, detailed in Report on the Occurrence of Foodborne Illness Risk Factors in Fast Food and Full Service Restaurants, 2013-2014, will serve as a baseline to assess trends in the occurrence of risk factors during data collections in 2017 and 2021. Other data collections in 2015, 2019 and 2023 investigate similar retail food safety issues in institutional foodservice settings and retail food stores.
Researchers found that the top non-compliant practices—temperature controls and employee handwashing—tend to be the same at fast food and full-service restaurants. They also discovered that full-service restaurants had higher percentages of non-compliance issues in every category when compared to fast-food operations.
As expected, researchers found that food safety management systems were the strongest predictor of food safety practices and behaviors being out-of-compliance in both types of operations. Those with well-developed food safety management systems had significantly better food safety behavior/practice compliance.
The FDA will continue to use data from the study to help decision-makers reduce the occurrence foodborne illness.
In addition, NACS works with the nonprofit, Partnership for Food Safety Education, to enhance our industry’s efforts to educate consumers on the steps they can take while handling food to reduce the risk of a foodborne illness. The Partnership for Food Safety Education created the Fight BAC!® campaign, an education program that uses scientifically based recommendations from an extensive consumer research process to help educate consumers on the steps they can take to minimize risks related to food safety.
The “Fight BAC!, Keep Food Safe From Bacteria” national consumer outreach materials are accessible online at www.fightbac.org and are used by a national network of consumers, teachers, dietitians, public health officials and extension agents across the United States.