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Studies on Retail Food Safety Programs

This page lists EHS-Net food safety projects and study objectives with a focus on retail food safety practice.

Read about how EHS-Net’s environmental public health practice work supports CDC’s Winnable Battle on Food Safety. [PDF - 328 KB]

Environmental Health Specialists’ Inspection and Outbreak Investigation Practices Focus Group Study

Objective: To evaluate the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of environmental health specialists regarding inspections and outbreak investigations.

Photo: Checking temperature of refrigerated foods.

Study Results: Focus group results concerning inspections indicated that environmental health specialists thought that identifying and correcting critical violations of food safety regulations, educating restaurant workers and managers about these critical violations, and developing a good relationship with restaurant managers were common and important inspection activities. Specialists also identified inspection difficulties associated with the restaurant industry, the inspection structure, and environmental health management.

Results concerning outbreak investigations revealed substantial variability in the type of activities in which participants engaged during investigations, and the amount and nature of the collaboration between epidemiology and environmental health during investigations. Also, many participants indicated that they did not often identify contributing factors to outbreaks during investigations. Participants also identified several difficulties associated with outbreak investigations, including those associated with restaurant employees, restaurant customers, and environmental health organizations.

Publication: Selman CA, Green LR. Environmental health specialists’ self-reported foodborne illness outbreak investigation practices. [PDF - 331 KB] J Environ Health. 2008;70(6):16-21.

Study findings in plain language: How environmental health specialists investigate outbreaks.

Manager Certification and Inspection Scores Study

Objective: To determine if the presence of a certified kitchen manager results in fewer critical violations.

Study Results: Restaurants are associated with a significant number of foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States. Certification of kitchen managers through an accredited training and testing program may help improve food safety practices and thus prevent foodborne illness. In this study, relationships between the results of routine restaurant inspections and the presence of a certified kitchen manager (CKM) were examined. We analyzed data for 4,461 restaurants in Iowa that were inspected during 2005 and 2006 (8,338 total inspections). Using logistic regression analysis, we modeled the outcome variable (0 = no critical violations [CVs]; 1 = one or more CVs) as a function of presence or absence of a CKM and other explanatory variables. We estimated separate models for seven inspection categories. Restaurants with a CKM present during inspection were less likely to have a CV for personnel (P < 0.01), food source or handling (P < 0.01), facility or equipment requirements (P < 0.05), warewashing (P < 0.10), and other operations (P < 0.10). However, restaurants with a CKM present during inspection were equally likely to have a CV for temperature or time control and plumbing, water, or sewage as were restaurants without a CKM present. Analyses by type of violation within the temperature and time control category revealed that restaurants with a CKM present during inspection were less likely to have a CV for hot holding (P < 0.05), but the presence of a CKM did not affect other types of temperature and time control violations. Our analyses suggest that the presence of a CKM is protective for most types of CVs, and we identify areas for improving training of CKMs.

Publication: Cates SC, Muth MK, Karns SA, Penne MA, Stone CN, Harrison JE. Certified kitchen managers: do they improve restaurant inspection outcomes? [PDF - 310 KB] J Food Prot. 2009;72(2):384-91.

Study findings in plain language: Kitchen manager certification study and food safety.

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