Is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s push to have a “certified food protection manager” always on duty in full-service restaurants something to fear? Or does it mean enhanced job security for those who have this designation, or can get it quickly? Either way, be ready for a new food safety requirement.
It’s hard to find much cause for alarm in FDA’s just-released 10-year tracking study of retail food safety practices. The part that focused on restaurants found that “full service restaurants showed a statistically significant improvement in the percentage of ‘In Compliance’ observations for all combined data items during the study period.”
This means restaurant operators improved their food safety performance over time in all 42 critical areas the study tracked. The most progress was made in three of the five areas FDA cites as important foodborne illness risk factors: contaminated equipment/protection from contamination; improper holding/time and temperature; and poor personal hygiene. Numbers weren’t quite as good in the other two risk areas (food from unsafe source; inadequate cooking). But overall, full-service compliance was definitely on the upswing all through the 1998-2008 study period.
It’s a good report card, but FDA thinks the full-service restaurant segment could do better. And they’ve got a plan for how you can do it, like it or not.
“In looking at the data, it is quite clear that having a certified food protection manager on the job makes a difference,” says FDA deputy commissioner Michael Taylor. “Some states and localities require certified food protection managers already, and many in the retail industry employ them voluntarily as a matter of good practice. We think it should become common practice.”
He’s not kidding. One part of the study found that “the presence of a certified food protection manager…was correlated with statistically significant higher compliance levels with food safety practices and behaviors than in facilities lacking a certified manger. For instance, compliance in full service restaurants was 70 percent with a manager, versus 58 percent without a manager.”
Consider this the writing on the wall. So what’s involved in becoming a certified food protection manager? The minimum requirement is 16 hours of training and passing an exam that tests the applicant’s knowledge of food safety as outlined in FDA’s food code. Operators can find out more about how it works by going to www.servsafe.com/foodsafety. Another avenue to explore can be found on the website of the National Register of Food Safety Professionals. Click on the “state” tab to see what your location’s requirements are; they differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
FDA wants to add a regulation to the FDA Model Food Code that would require full-service restaurants to have a certified food protection manager (CFPM) on their payrolls. Right now, it’s just a suggestion, because cities and states don’t have to necessarily adhere to every aspect of the Food Code. But you can be sure that some sort of new requirement is on the way.
We don’t know when or if having a CFPM on duty at your restaurant will become a mandate. Nevertheless, it might be a good idea to have one or more of your current managers take the training and pass the test. If you’re a manager, on the other hand, this counts as good news. You’ve now found a good way to increase your job security and advance your career.