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Observational Study of Food Safety Practices in Retail Deli Departments

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In order to improve the safety of refrigerated ready-to-eat food products prepared at retail deli departments, a better understanding of current practices in these establishments is needed. Food employees in deli departments at six chain and three independent retail establishments in Maryland and Virginia were observed, using notational analysis, as they prepared deli products for sale. The frequency of contact with objects and deli products before sale, hand washing and glove changing during preparation, and equipment, utensil, and surface cleaning and sanitizing was determined. Compliance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's 2005 model Food Code recommendations, which must be adopted by the individual state and local jurisdictions that are responsible for directly regulating retail establishments, was also assessed. Observations indicated there were a large number of actions for which hand washing was recommended at independent and chain stores (273 recommended of 1,098 total actions and 439 recommended of 3,073 total actions, respectively). Moreover, 67% (295 of 439) of the actions for which hand washing was recommended at the chain stores and 86% (235 of 273) of those at the independent stores resulted from employees touching non–food contact surfaces prior to handling ready-to-eat food. Compliance with hand washing recommendations was generally low and varied depending on store type with independent stores exhibiting lower compliance than chain stores (5 instances of compliance for 273 recommended actions and 73 instances of compliance for 439 recommended actions, respectively). Potential risk mitigation measures that may reduce the frequency of hand washing actions needed during ready-to-eat food preparation in retail deli departments are discussed. More research is needed to determine the impact of such measures on food safety.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20740, USA. 2: Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, College Park, Maryland 20740, USA 3: Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20740, USA

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