Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Analysis of Food Service Operation Risk Classification and Associated Food Safety Violation Frequency

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Analysis of Food Service Operation Risk Classification and Associated Food Safety Violation Frequency

Article excerpt

Introduction

Within the U.S., the retail food industry serves an estimated 70 billion meals annually and nearly 50 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with a foodborne illness over that same period of time, approximately 50-70% of which can be attributed to failures in food service operation (FSO) safety (Fraser & Nummer, 2010; Mathe, 2012). Infections by enteric pathogens result in thousands of deaths and hospitalizations per year, making food safety a prominent challenge that requires the concerted attention of multiple public health entities (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2015). State and local health departments typically play the largest role in actively enforcing compliance with safe food-handling practices via licensing and inspection programs. Federal agencies, however, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are likewise responsible for public health through regulatory action and the establishment of national standards and models that local health departments may wish to adopt (Bekemeier, Yip, Dunbar, Whitman, & Kwan-Gett, 2015).

In an effort to meet FDA Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards (VNRFRPS), the Cincinnati Health Department (CHD) in 2012 instituted a staff training program for improving food safety within restaurant operations under its jurisdiction (National Environmental Health Association, 2007). The VNRFRPS initiative encourages use of a continuous improvement system for participating health departments by cooperating with state and local partners and offering a basic framework upon which a modernized food safety program can be built (Food and Drug Administration, 2015). To improve on VNRFRPS Standard 2 "Trained Regulatory Staff," CHD field sanitarians met with a certified training officer to ensure adequate understanding of the Ohio Uniform Food Safety Code and its food protection plan (Sharkey, Alam, Mase, & Ying, 2012). Through homogenous staff training, the CHD sanitarian workforce is expected to have a more consistent methodology for conducting inspections of FSOs and other retail food establishments within the Cincinnati area (Kaml et al., 2013).

Sharkey and coauthors (2012) provide an assessment of the CHD's food protection program prior to the implementation of the standardization process, specifically in regard to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foodborne Illness Risk Factors and their association with FSO risk classifications. The advantages of this article's access to more recent data are threefold: 1) having records from 2013-2015 provides renewed insight into code violations following the implementation of CHD's standardized training program, 2) introduction of a time component allows for violation trend tracking and contributes valuable knowledge on how the inspection program has affected violation issuance over the course of the three yearly review cycles, and 3) separation of violation types is naturally more inclined toward specific investigation of which violations are most heavily associated with FSOs with certain characteristics. With that in mind, the chief objective of this analysis is to determine whether FSOs vary in their odds of incurring a food safety violation dependent upon risk classification in hopes of adding to the scientific literature that guides the decisions and practices of health department FSO inspecting staff.

Methods

Data Source

This analysis used FSO inspection data obtained from the CHD records for three separate review periods beginning July 2013 and ending June 2015. The inspection dataset itself contained relevant variables such as business name, inspector name, address, and census tract. The most notable variable of interest, however, pertained to the type of FSO safety violation issued. While there are several Ohio Uniform Food Safety Code categories (Table 1) such as water safety, personnel training, or equipment maintenance, this analysis was limited to an examination of food-related violations (3717. …

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