Yesterday FDA released the initial phase of its findings of a 10-year nationwide study that looks at the relationship between food safety management systems, certified food protection managers, and the occurrence of risk factors and food safety behaviors/practices, and how this contributes to foodborne illness outbreaks in retail establishments. This first phase collected data from 2013–2014; subsequent data collection will be from 2017 and 2021. The entire span of the study is 2013–2023.
Restaurants had the most effective control over ensuring there is no bare hand contact with RTE foods as well as cooking raw animal foods (including meat, poultry and eggs) to the required temperature
Unsafe food behaviors in fast food and full-service restaurants. Improvement needed in:
Employee hand washing (knowing when and how to do it)
Proper temperature control of foods that require refrigeration to limit pathogen growth
Study results will be used to help advise retail food safety initiative and policies, industry partnerships and specific intervention strategies that target foodborne illness risk factors. It will also aid in providing technical assistance to state, local and other regulatory professionals. FDA put together a factsheet with highlights of the study.
Consumers think they’re more likely to get a foodborne illness from food they consume at a restaurant versus food they prepare at home, and they’re also more worried about contamination of raw chicken or beef than contaminated raw vegetables. These and other findings were part of an annual survey, conducted by FDA in partnership with FSIS and USDA, to assess and track consumers’ understanding of food safety handling techniques, along with their feelings and behaviors surrounding food safety. The findings can help the FDA determine its education efforts to help improve consumer food safety behaviors.
Nearly 4200 Americans participated in the survey between October 6, 2015 and January 17, 2016. The questions measured food safety behaviors such as handwashing and washing cutting boards; preparing and consuming risk foods; and food thermometer use. Highlighted findings among respondents include:
Rates of consumers owning food thermometers remains constant, but usage has increased for roasts, chicken parts and hamburgers over the past 10 years.
Handwashing rates remain constant or decreased between 2010 and 2016.
New finding: Only 35% of consumers wash their hands after touching handheld phones or tablets while preparing food.
67% wash raw chicken parts before cooking; 68% wash whole chicken or turkeys before cooking. “This practice is not recommended by food safety experts since washing will not destroy pathogens and may increase the risk of contaminating other foods and surfaces,” according to FDA.
65% of respondents had not heard of mechanically tenderized beef (Labeling required as of May 2016).
At the 2016 Food Safety Consortium, Gina Kramer will be moderating the Listeria Detection & Control Workshop | December 7–8 | Schaumburg, IL | LEARN MOREOn October 15, Global Handwashing Day was observed by millions of people in more than 100 countries. The point of the day is to heighten awareness around the importance of handwashing, which is a critical part of preventing sickness and spreading germs.
As food safety professionals, proper handwashing is a critical part of prevention as well. Ensuring that employees understand and execute on the practice is essential to preventing product contamination and protecting consumers.
I would like to introduce you to a new handwashing tool for the food industry, the SaniTimer. A chef who is passionate about food safety performance by food employees developed this innovation. I love this new product and its practical application to food safety and public health in assisting in proper food employee behavior.
I encourage you to watch the video, and please share your thoughts about the technology.
In the past two weeks, this blog has covered how Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness worldwide, some potential sources of outbreak, and the importance of proper handwashing, developing an employee health policy, building a comprehensive food safety program, and training of employees. One critical aspect of Norovirus management is proper attention paid to cleaning and disposal of body fluids.
Proper cleaning and disposal of body fluids
The food code requires that retail foodservice establishments have proper procedures in place for emergency body fluids clean-up. Body fluids incidents in the dining room, play areas or back of the house are arguably the single most important source of Norovirus cross contamination in the restaurant, if clean-up and disposal are not performed according to standard operating procedures. The components of an effective and compliant SOP for emergency body fluids clean-up may include the following:
Written step by step procedure to contain, isolate, clean and disinfect affected areas;
Ready and easily accessible emergency body fluid clean-up kit;
Use of PPEs like disposable aprons, gloves and protective eye glasses;
Norovirus approved disinfectant as a kill step before and after clean-up;
Containment of body fluids spill using absorbent yellow spill pads to reduce aerosols;
Affected area should be isolated to avoid accidental dispersal by guests;
Discard all affected open food and decontaminate all affected surfaces;
Stop all food prep until body fluids are contained, cleaned and affected area disinfected;
Perform clean-up with disposable towels and yellow spill pads for easy disposal;
Wear triple gloves to avoid contaminating the clean-up kit and storage area;
Dispose clean-up trash straight in outside dumpster without passing through kitchen; and
Employee must wash hands twice, first in the bathroom and then in the kitchen.
The pathogen kill-step is the most important step in the body fluid clean-up process. The preferred option is to use a disinfectant grade chemical instead of regular sanitizers.
Ecolab’s Insta-Use Multi-purpose Disinfectant Cleaner is effective against Norovirus (and other viruses), mold, mildew and bacteria. It cleans, deodorizes and disinfects in one labor saving step and packaged in an easy to use compact cartridge with less storage space requirement. Caution: Disinfectant is not approved for food contact surfaces and cannot be used as a replacement for regular sanitizers on food contact surfaces.
Proper training of team members and associates is required before use to encourage compliance.
In conclusion, Norovirus is still a major infectious pathogen associated with foodservice operations in spite of several regulatory control and technological advances to curtail its occurrence and prevalence. Until a viable vaccine or an effective drug becomes available against Norovirus, rigorous implementation of food safety procedures, behavioral changes and continuous training of both foodservice workers and customers will remain the industry’s best practices at prevention and control. Overall, it makes a lot of business sense to do all that it takes to protect your customers against the threat of Norovirus infection, and by so doing, equally protect your business brand and the entire public health.
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