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FDA Foodborne Illness Report Emphasizes Need for Improvement

WASHINGTON - The risk factors that can lead to the occurrence of foodborne illness in select foodservice facilities remain unchanged but still need improvement, according to a report released by the Food and Drug Administration.

The survey covers various types of foodservice, restaurant, and retail facilities and cites inadequate handwashing, improper cold holding, and improper cleaning/sanitizing of food contact surfaces as the most common risks.

The study conducted by the FDA's National Retail Food Team involved data collection inspections of 900 food establishments for nine facility types at five-year intervals to document the occurrence of the foodborne illness risk factors. The report is the second in a series that began in 1998 and presents data collected in 2003.

In all facility types, 'Out of compliance' percentages remained high for data items related to three primary risk factors: improper holding time/temperature, poor personal hygiene, and contaminated equipment/prevention of contamination.

Results from the data indicate that the recommendations made to foodservice and retail food operators and regulators in the 2000 report need to be re-emphasized. As such, foodservice and retail food operators must ensure that their management systems are designed for better control over the risk factors. Regulators must ensure that their inspection, education, and enforcement efforts are geared toward the control of the risk factors commonly found to be out of compliance.

The data also suggests that the presence of a certified manager has a positive effect on the control of certain risk factors, especially in fast food restaurants, full-service restaurants, meat and poultry departments, and produce departments. Poor personal hygiene appears to be the risk factor for which the presence of a certified manager had the most positive effect.
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