Food safety, no doubt, is a priority area for every responsible government and if adequate safeguards are not built into the legal implementation protocols, the consequences can be devastating. Look at a country like the US or European Union where food poisoning episodes are killing and maiming thousands of people because of inadequate oversight by the governments and indifferent handling practices by the industry. FDA and the USDA responsible for food safety in the US have an "unenviable" record in looking after the consumer well being and there are serious insinuations that these agencies are more concerned about the health of the industry rather than that of the citizen! Whether such sweeping allegations are true or not, fact still remains that many developing country with practically no infrastructure for implementing international protocols of safety have a better record as far as avoidance food poisoning is concerned! Latest "attempt" by the safety agencies in the US to insist on compulsory deployment of certified safety manager in each and every food service establishment, if rigorously implemented may still provide a better chance to provide reasonable safety coverage to its citizens. Here is a take on this recent development which may have positive implications for future
A new action plan from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends there be a certified food protection manager in every retail or foodservice operation — encompassing everything from vending machine companies and independent restaurants to prison cafeterias and farmers markets. FDA officials unveiled the Retail Food Safety Initiative Action Plan Sept. 29 through its Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. The plan's four goals came from analysis of a 10-year study of 800 retail food establishments, said Glenda Lewis, team leader for the retail food protection team in the FDA's Office of Food Safety. Along with the action plan, FDA officials also announced a cooperative agreement with the National Association of County and City Health Officials. The agreement includes a $400,000 grant for the association to use for programs to help attain the goals of the action plan, including the push for more certified food protection managers. The grant can be renewed for up to four years, depending on funding availability, Lewis said. Many foodservice operations and restaurants already have certified food protection managers on staff, said Sue Hensley, senior vice president for public affairs at the National Restaurant Association. "We believe this recommendation is a positive step in the movement to increase food safety," Hensley said. However, she said, some small, independent operations may not want to devote the money and time necessary for staff to obtain and maintain certification. Joe Russell, chairman of the health officials association's Food Safety Working Group, said the accredited certification programs he is familiar with, such as the National Restaurant Association's ServSafe, take about two days to complete. He also said some states, such as Washington, already require all food handlers to carry a certification card. Both Russell and Lewis said research has shown that merely having a certified food safety manager on staff increases the use of best practices and reduces risks in foodservice and restaurant operations. In the FDA's 10-year study, which concluded last year, statistics from 2009 showed overall compliance in full-service restaurants with a certified manager was 70%, compared to 58% compliance in restaurants that did not have a certified food protection manager on staff. In produce markets with certified managers, the study showed overall compliance was 86%, versus a 79% compliance rate in markets that didn't have certified managers.
Right now the proposal is still at the recommendatory level and there appears to be some resistance from the industry because of the possible financial burden on small enterprises if implementation is made mandatory. There may be some truth in this claim and government will have to find a solution to this logistical issue. In a country like India, currently the pharmacy sector is covered by such mandatory regulation under which licencing is given only if a qualified pharmacist is employed by the dealer. Since food is equally important and lack of adequate precautionary measures by workers, not aware of good handling practices, can have the potential to cause food related health problems to millions of consumers. The proposal for compulsory employment of qualified personnel for ensuring food safety by all players in the field must be implemented ruthlessly with no exception to any one!