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Kitchen Manager Certification and Food Safety

This page shows the study purpose, design, results, conclusions, and recommendations in plain language for the EHS-Net project titled Manager Certification and Inspection Scores Study.

The findings and recommendations from this project are also in fact sheet format [PDF - 290 KB].

Citations for more EHS-Net publications are available by Study Topic or by Citation.

Photo of chefs preparing food in a kitchen.

Study Problem

Certified kitchen managers (CKMs) have passed a test to show knowledge of food safety. It is believed that CKMs are better able to control factors that can lead to foodborne illness. But research on the link between kitchen manager certification and restaurant food safety is conflicting. Thus, it is important to collect quality data to help understand that link.

Study Purpose

The purpose of this study was to look at links between restaurant food-safety inspections and certification of kitchen managers.

Study Findings in Brief

EHS-Net found that restaurants with kitchen managers certified in food safety were less likely to have critical violations on their inspections.

Study Design

We analyzed 8,338 routine inspection reports for 4,461 restaurants in Iowa, a 2007 EHS-Net site. During routine inspections, inspectors checked whether restaurants met Iowa food safety rules. They used a 44-item checklist.

Some items on the checklist are called critical violations. If not fixed, these items are more likely than others to cause illness or a health risk. These critical violations are grouped into seven areas:

  • Food temperature and time control.
  • Staff.
  • Food source and handling.
  • Dish and pot washing (warewashing).
  • Plumbing, water, and sewage.
  • Facility and equipment.
  • Other operations.

Inspectors also noted whether the manager on site during the inspection was a CKM.

We also looked at the link between critical violations and restaurant income and type. Examples of restaurant types include

  • Mainly serves food or mainly serves liquor.
  • Fast food or full service.

Study Results

Critical violations in six areas were less likely in restaurants with a CKM than in restaurants without a CKM:

  • Staff.
  • Food source and handling.
  • Warewashing.
  • Facility and equipment.
  • Hot holding.
  • Other operations.

Critical violations in five areas were equally likely in restaurants with and without a CKM:

  • Plumbing, water, and sewage.
  • Cooling.
  • Cold holding.
  • Cooking temperatures,
  • Reheating,

Critical violations in most areas were less likely in restaurants:

  • That mainly served liquor than in those that mainly served food.
  • With lower incomes than in those with higher incomes.
  • That served fast food than in those with full service.

Study Conclusions

Restaurants with CKMs had fewer of most types of critical violations. This suggests that CKMs may be better able to control risk factors for foodborne illness. CKMs may also provide better on-the-job training, which increases safe food handling by food workers.

Restaurants with CKMs did not have fewer critical violations in plumbing, water, and sewage. Kitchen managers may not have control over fixing these problems.

Restaurants with CKMs did not have fewer critical violations in most time and temperature control activities such as cooling and cold holding. But they did have fewer critical violations in hot holding of food. Proper hot holding may be easier than other food temperature and time control activities. For example, hot holding may be easier than cold holding because hot holding has a larger acceptable range of temperatures. Also, violations in temperature and time control could be due to poor equipment. Kitchen managers may not have much control over poor equipment.

Restaurants that mainly serve liquor may be less likely to have a critical violation because they typically serve food that requires little preparation. This may decrease the chance for violations.

Fast-food restaurants may be less likely to have a critical violation because they tend to serve food that requires little preparation. This may decrease the chance for violations. These restaurants may also be more likely to have food safety measures in place.

Restaurants that make less money may be less likely to have a critical violation because they sell less food. This may decrease the chance for violations.

EHS-Net Recommends

Certification of kitchen managers may affect foodborne illness risk factors in many ways. Some ways are better management and better on-the-job training. More research is needed to fully understand this link.

We need to know the links between certification and food temperature and time control. We also need to know the links between certification and plumbing, water, and sewage. Training in these areas may need to be improved.

Food-safety programs and restaurants should consider encouraging or requiring certification of kitchen managers.

Key Terms

  • Certified kitchen manager (CKM): manager who passed a test to show knowledge of food safety.
  • Cold holding: keeping cold food at a specific temperature to reduce germ growth.
  • Critical violations: violations found during restaurant inspections that are more likely to lead to foodborne illness.
  • Inspection: regular visit to see how well restaurants follow local food safety rules.
  • Foodborne illness: an illness caused by germs in food.
  • Hot holding: keeping hot food at a specific temperature to reduce germ growth.
  • Temperature and time control: using temperature or time to reduce germ growth in food. For example, food can be kept refrigerated or it can be held at higher temperatures for no more than 4 hours.
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