At least two recent multistate foodborne illness outbreaks were traced to prepared or raw foods sold by U.S. restaurant chains.

Focused on Food Workers' Training

The National Restaurant Association's ServSafe 6th Edition is available to help managers meet the 2011 supplement to the 2009 Food Code.

The National Restaurant Association introduced its ServSafe 6th Edition Food Safety manager program in April 2012 to help restaurant and food service managers meet the requirements of FDA's 2009 Food Code, including the 2011 supplement to the code. The association released the "ServSafe Manager Book, 6th Edition" and also redesigned the ServSafe website to reflect improvements made in the new edition. Training for managers and employees is available through the site.

"Food safety best practices are ever-evolving, and as the restaurant and foodservice industry’s leading provider of food safety training and certification, we are evolving with them," explained Paul Hineman, executive director of National Restaurant Association Solutions. "This new and improved version of our ServSafe program is, as it always has been, the result of industry collaboration to enhance usability, information flow, and knowledge retention. Restaurant managers training with ServSafe will have a whole new learning experience that translates into everyday food safety practices in any food service operation."

According to the association, which marks National Food Safety Education Month each September, U.S. restaurants are the nation's second-largest private-sector employer with nearly 13 million employees, and that overall employment number is expected to grow by 1.4 million jobs during the next decade. It describes the sixth edition as being more focused on preventive measures to keep food safe, leading to stronger food safety practices and a better-trained workforce.

The 2011 supplement made several adjustments to the code, including the addition of estimates of how many foodborne illness cases occur each year in the United States.

Two CDC studies published in the January 2011 issue of CDC's Emerging Infectious Diseases are the cited sources for the estimates of approximately 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the United States per year. About 1,000 local, regional, and national disease outbreaks are reported each year, which highlights the challenges of preventing these infections, according to the supplement, which states that most foodborne illness victims are not part of recognized outbreaks. "For many victims, foodborne illness results only in discomfort or lost time from the job. For some, especially preschool age children, older adults in health care facilities, and those with impaired immune systems, foodborne illness is more serious and may be life threatening," it explains.

At least two recent multistate foodborne illness outbreaks were traced to prepared or raw foods sold by U.S. restaurant chains. A total of 136 people living in 34 states were infected in a 2011 outbreak involving a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella Heidelberg that authorities traced to ground turkey sold at retail outlets, and one of the individuals died, according to CDC.

The 2011 supplement added a new requirement that the person in charge at covered establishments must ensure that employees are verifying that foods delivered to the establishment during non-operating hours are from approved sources and are placed in appropriate storage locations, maintained at the required temperatures, and protected from contamination. Two sections retained in the supplement but renumbered say the person in charge must ensure employees are properly trained in food safety, including food allergy awareness, and in addition are properly cooking potentially hazardous food properly, being particularly careful when cooking foods known to cause severe foodborne illness and death, such as eggs. The person in charge is to achieve this through daily oversight of employees' monitoring of cooking temperatures and properly using appropriate temperature-measuring devices.

When the 2009 code was issued, leaders of the agencies involved -- the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- urged all levels of government across the country to adopt it and use it to regulate restaurants, retail food stores, vending operations, and food service operations in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and child care centers. They said the globalized food supply chain, the aging U.S. population, a rise in the number of people with compromised immune systems, and consumers eating more foods prepared outside the home “demand sustained vigilance by industry and the regulatory community to promote food safety in retail and foodservice establishments.” The code also supports many of the food safety objectives of Healthy People 2010, the 10-year strategy for improving health in America.

Implementing FSMA
The Food Safety Modernization Act signed into law in January 2011 gave FDA new authority to prevent food products from entering commerce if the agency believes it was produced in unsanitary or unsafe conditions. The law gives the agency new inspection and enforcement powers and directed it to improve its ability to track both domestic and imported foods. FDA issued its first regulations under those authorities in May 2011. Since July 2011, the agency has been able to embargo food products for up to 30 days if it believes they are adulterated or misbranded; before the new law made gave it this power, the agency often relied on state agencies’ using their legal authority until federal enforcement action could commence in a federal court.

"This authority strengthens significantly the FDA’s ability to keep potentially harmful food from reaching U.S. consumers," said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Mike Taylor said when the regulations were issued. "It is a prime example of how the new food safety law allows FDA to build prevention into our food safety system."

July 2011 also saw FDA and USDA agree on a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on food safety issues, including pathogen and contaminant detection methods and the development and delivery of training and technical assistance. FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) and USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are coordinating regular meetings to continue the collaboration.

References
1. 2011 supplement to the 2009 Food Code:
http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/RetailFoodProtection/FoodCode/FoodCode2009/ucm272584.htm#Summary

2. January 2011 issue, Emerging Infectious Diseases:
http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/content/17/1/contents.htm

3. ServSafe:
http://www.servsafe.com/home.aspx

4. CDC Multistate Foodborne Outbreak Investigations:
http://www.cdc.gov/outbreaknet/outbreaks.html

5. 2009 Food Code:
http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/RetailFoodProtection/FoodCode/FoodCode2009/default.htm

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