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Retail Food Risk Factor Studies


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) National Retail Food Team initiated a multi-year research study designed to assess food safety procedures and practices, different types of foodservice and retail food store operations.

In 2014, FDA is collecting data in full service and quick service restaurants. Data collections in subsequent years will focus on the institutional foodservice and retail food store sectors. Data from this study and from a similar 10-year study FDA conducted from 1998 to 2008 may be used by the food industry and Federal, state, local, and tribal regulatory professionals to:
Formulate retail food safety policies and initiatives;
Establish priorities and allocate resources to enhance retail food safety nationwide;
Track changes in the occurrence of foodborne illness risk factors in retail and foodservice establishments over time; and
Recommend best practices and targeted intervention strategies to reduce foodborne illness risk factors.

In 2014, FDA is collecting data in 800 randomly selected full service restaurants and quick service restaurants located in proximity to 25 FDA Regional Retail Food Specialists (Specialists) who will serve as the data collectors. The data collection is intended to be targeted on the control of foodborne illness risk factors. It is not a regulatory visit and is not intended to be a comprehensive assessment of compliance with the FDA Food Code. The FDA Specialists will make observations to assess food safety practices and procedures related to:

Employee handwashing,
Prevention of bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food,
Prevention of cross contamination,
Cleaning and sanitizing of food contact surfaces,
Cold holding of foods requiring refrigeration,
Hot holding of foods,
Cooling of foods that have been cooked or made from ambient ingredients,
Date marking of refrigerated ready-to-eat foods,
Cooking of raw animal foods,
Reheating of cooked foods.

Data collectors also make observations about certain food safety practices such as: reduced oxygen packaging; the use of time as a microbial growth barrier; allergen management; and the use of a consumer advisory when serving raw or undercooked animal foods.

During data collection visits, FDA Specialists gather information on the average number of meals served per day; the number of employees on duty at the time of inspection; and the restaurant’s status as part of a multi-unit operation or a franchise. Specialists ask questions regarding the food safety management systems (e.g. procedures, training, monitoring) that may be in place in the food establishments. FDA uses this information to examine correlations between the implementation of management systems and the control of foodborne illness risk factors.

This study will help FDA continue its efforts to enhance the national retail food program which relies on cooperation and coordination with the over 3000 federal, state, local, and tribal agencies

Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Data Years Available: 
Mode of Collection: 
Observational study by FDA standardized data collectors.
Selected Content: 
Population Covered: 
Response Rates and Sample Size: 


Interpretation Issues: