Systematic Planning Enhances the Effectiveness of Retail Food Regulatory Programs

Article excerpt

A post-inspection compliance program is the system used by retail food regulatory agencies to deal with non-complying retail food operators who do not or will not correct code violations voluntarily. In most jurisdictions, this program is used against a relatively small portion (approximately 10-20 percent) of retail food operators. The system is typically used only when on-site resolution has failed and the operator refuses or fails to comply voluntarily with the recommendations, warnings and orders of the regulatory agency.

Despite the fact a post-inspection compliance program is used sparingly, it is important for a retail food regulatory agency to have a system in place that will deal effectively with non-complying operators. In fact, the overall effectiveness of a retail food protection program often hinges on the regulatory agency's ability to secure compliance with code requirements when violations are not "voluntarily" corrected through on-site resolution.

When a program planner is designing a post-inspection compliance program, he or she must consider all aspects of the retail food regulatory system. Special consideration should be given to the overall regulatory scheme for insuring food protection, the goals and objectives of the retail food regulatory program, and the interrelationships that exist among specific retail food law regulatory activities. The planner must understand the regulatory context in which a post-inspection compliance program operates and the possibilities and limitations provided by the overall regulatory scheme, including existing laws and regulations. In order to appreciate the "trees" (i.e., alternative compliance strategies), the planner first must see the "forest" or, in this case, the retail food regulatory system as a whole.

To aid the planner in formulating an effective compliance program, a "systems approach" to the planning, implementation and evaluation of the program is recommended. The systems approach allows the planner to consider the significant factors that influence program design and the ultimate success of a compliance program. Systems planning also aids the development of a compliance program that will function effectively within the context of the larger regulatory system.

The traditional systems approach for analyzing governmental operations and services, including regulatory systems, involves five interrelated factors that influence the nature, quantity and quality of the products of the system.

* environment

* input

* process

* output

* feedback

Environment

The environment consists of those external considerations, conditions and factors that facilitate, inhibit, or otherwise influence the organization and operation of the system. Regulatory systems and compliance programs are not developed in a vacuum and seldom represent the "best" or "ideal" approach to achieving public goals and providing services to reach those goals. Real-world governmental systems are the result of policy choices shaped by the interplay of a variety of entities and interests, including legislative bodies, regulated parties, the general public, and regulatory agency policy makers.

The environment defines what a planner can and cannot do and to a large degree what should be done. The range of choices available to the planner of a governmental program is limited by the policy decisions and compromises that have been made by others. The first step in the planning process is to identify and assess the impact of the environmental factors that affect the planner's range of choices in designing a program.

The environment includes laws and regulations. The law is embodied in statutes or ordinances, administrative rules or regulations, and court decisions and is clarified by opinions of the state attorney general and the regulatory agency counsel. The law sets the boundaries of regulatory agency action. …