Measuring the Effectiveness of the Nationís Retail Food Protection System

John A. Marcello


For years, regulatory and industry food safety programs have been designed to minimize the occurrence of foodborne illness. Until the late 1990s, no study was available upon which an assessment could be made on the overall effectiveness of the nationís retail food protection system. Although the level of foodborne illness would be the ideal retail food program performance indicator, the occurrence of foodborne illness is grossly underreported, making it an unreliable program measurement. As an alternative, the occurrence of foodborne illness risk factors was selected as the performance indicator.


Beginning in 1998, FDA initiated a study that established a national baseline on the occurrence of foodborne illness risk factors. These foodborne illness risk factors are: Food from Unsafe Sources; Improper Holding/Time and Temperature; Inadequate Cooking; Poor Personal Hygiene and Contaminated Equipment. Since the 1998 Baseline Study was completed, two subsequent data collections have been completed, one in 2003 and 2008. This presentation will report out the data results from the most recent 2008 Study period. If the safety of food in the retail segment of the food industry is to be significantly improved, the retail food industry and the regulatory community must remain focused in their efforts to reduce the specific behaviors and practices contributing to the most significant Out of Compliance observation percentages for each of the risk factor areas.


FDA intends to produce a report in early 2010 that presents the risk factor trend analysis for the study period 19982008. Using data from multiple collection periods, trends will be evaluated to determine whether progress is being made toward the goals of reducing the occurrence of foodborne illness risk factors.