Most Restaurants, Schools Don't Use Food-Safety Procedures Required of Processors

Newswise -- Consumer confidence in the safety of food served in food-service establishments can dramatically impact the success of their operations. Despite increasing sales in the restaurant industry, consumer confidence in the safety of foods served in restaurants has fluctuated in recent years, according to Food Marketing Institute consumer surveys.

A Food Safety Consortium research team at Iowa State University has surveyed the state's school food service operations and restaurants and found that most are not using the food-safety procedures that are required of processing plants.

Most food-service operations do not have formal science-based Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs, which designate intervention points in food processing at which to prevent or eliminate contamination.

Formal HACCP programs have been in used in the meat, seafood, and juice processing industries for years due to federal mandates. However, HACCP programs in food service operations are not mandated and are significantly less common in the food service industry. Many food-service operators have not implemented HACCP or HACCP-based food-safety programs because of concerns about time, expertise and perceptions about extensive record keeping.

FSC researcher Dan Henroid and others in the ISU Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management program evaluated trends in HACCP program development in both school districts and restaurants in Iowa. Many food service establishments do not have appropriate prerequisite programs in place to implement HACCP. These programs are designed to protect food in storage and production, and form the foundation for HACCP.

A survey by former ISU graduate student Sukyoung Youn and professor Jeannie Sneed found that 24 percent of school districts surveyed nationwide had HACCP programs in their centralized school food-service operations. They asked school food-service directors if they offered several prerequisite programs that are considered essential to developing HACCP programs. Survey results published in the January 2003 Journal of the American Dietetic Association indicated 22 percent of the directors reported having comprehensive HACCP plans, 11 percent had a HACCP team, and 28 percent had a food product flow chart. Although 92 percent reported implementing standard operating procedures for their food service operations, only 43 percent had written standard operating procedures for cleaning and sanitizing equipment.

"We are actively working with school districts to develop HACCP programs in Iowa as part of a multi-year research project," Henroid said. "We are working with 38 school districts across the state that represent different types of systems for serving food to school children. This research was critical for establishing a baseline. With the results we can assess how representative the districts we work with are compared to other districts across the country."

Another survey, conducted by Sneed and former ISU graduate student Kevin Roberts, evaluated the extent to which prerequisite and HACCP programs were implemented in independent Iowa restaurants. They found that 8 percent of the respondents had comprehensive HACCP plans for their establishments. Forty-seven percent reported they had written standard operating procedures for their equipment, 67 percent did not have temperature calibration schedules for the equipment and 77 percent did not have temperature-monitoring logs. A complete report of the survey findings was published in the October 2003 Food Protection Trends.

"Overall, the results indicated that having an employee responsible for food safety was positively related to the number of food safety practices implemented," Henroid said. "In addition, female managers and those with higher levels of education were more likely to have food safety programs implemented.

"But it may be only a matter of time before somebody does mandate HACCP in the retail sector in limited segments," he said. "Are they ready for it? At least in food processing they're much more prepared to do it because of the scope and volume that they're producing."

Results from the surveys provide Henroid's ISU research team with information relevant for the HACCP training materials they develop. One set of materials provides complete training resources for food-service operators and is available on the ISU HACCP Information Center web site at http://www.iowahaccp.iastate.edu. Materials done by other ISU research for other types of HACCP programs including meat and juice processing also can be found on this site.

Source: University of Arkansas, Food Safety Consortium

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