FDA Recommends Retailers Employ On-site Food Safety Managers

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Calling for continued improvements in food safety, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that all restaurants and retailers employ certified food protection managers, according to a report by Nation's Restaurant News.

The recommendation, which was met with support from both the National Restaurant Association and the National Council of Chain Restaurants, came Friday as the agency released the results of a 10-year study of retail food risk factors. While the study found overall improvement, the FDA said the presence of a certified food protection manager correlated with significantly higher compliance levels with food safety practices, the report stated.

"In looking at the data, it is quite clear that having a certified food protection manager on the job makes a difference," said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods. "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."

Donald Kraemer, the FDA's acting deputy director for operations, told Nation's Restaurant News that the agency plans to add a provision requiring restaurants to employ certified food protection managers to a future edition of the federal "FDA Model Food Code."

States, counties and cities are free to reject or adopt the Food Code in part or in its entirety. However, the FDA and industry groups including the National Council of Chain Restaurants are urging that those policies and guidelines be adopted nationwide, according to the report.

The FDA has no timeline for adding a food protection manager provision to the Food Code, but Kraemer said the agency will work to that end through normal channels involving the Conference for Food Protection (CFP). The CFP provides the FDA with input and recommendations, and is made up of members of foodservice trade groups, the food industry, government, academia and consumer organizations. The group meets biennially and convenes next in 2012.

NRA spokesman Mike Donohue said 24 states currently require restaurants to have certified food protection managers. He added that in the other 26 states, some local jurisdictions may have requirements for the employment of such specialized employees, or the state may require such a hire for a specific restaurant or chain that has had food safety problems.

Taking the concept further, some states -- including Oregon and, beginning next year, California -- require all food handlers to undergo basic safety training and pass an exam attesting to their understanding of the coursework, according to the report.

The FDA's 10-year study of retail food risk factors found full-service restaurants with certified food protection managers had a 70-percent compliance rate with food safety practices, vs. a 58-percent compliance rate at restaurants without such an employee. In delicatessens, compliance was 79 percent with a manager, compared to 64 percent without, the FDA reported.

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