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IMG_9966.jpg Joanna Fantozzi
Participants at the Food Safety Symposium discuss pressing issues.

Food health and safety compliance is not as vigilant in a post-pandemic world

Hazel Analytics data unveiled at the 2023 Food Safety Symposium reveals that handwashing and temperature control are areas in need of improvement

During the peak years of COVID-19, hygiene was king and everyone—from restaurant workers to people bringing in packages from outside—was meticulously washing their hands for 30 seconds many times a day. But pandemic panic did not last forever, and with it, some health and safety rigor has gone by the wayside, according to health inspections data unveiled by Hazel Analytics at the 2023 Nation’s Restaurant News Food Safety Symposium in partnership with Ecolab, held this year in Providence, Rhode Island. 

According to the report, which analyzed data of two million restaurant inspections from Sept. 2022- Sept. 2023, handwashing was the top offender for FDA food code violations. Specifically, nearly 6% of all inspections received violations for inadequate handwashing stations. The other top five violations were sanitization of food contact surfaces (5.6%), a certified food protection manager present (4.4%), proper cold holding temperatures (3.7%), and food obtained from an approved source (3.5%).

Overall, the data shows that the FDA has been cracking down since the pandemic.

“Health department inspection focus has shifted significantly,” Loveleen Lohia, customer success manager at Hazel Analytics said. “We analyze 255 health departments… and we’ve noticed that […] there has been an increase on the regulatory side on citing those violations much more than before COVID.”

Hazel Analytics also provided custom data from the attendees at the Food Safety Symposium, representing 17 hospitality and foodservice brands across the industry. Their top food safety violations were similar, but not exactly the same as the overall cohort. Their top safety violations were sanitization of food contact surfaces, in which 20% of inspections received violations, proper cold holding temperatures (15.9%), adequate handwashing (15%), a certified food protection manager present (12.3%), and food separated and protected (8.3%). Overall, about 66% of these violations fall into the foodborne illness danger category.

“So, my question to you is ‘do you have access to the data and analytics you need to proactively manage the safety risks?’” Lohia said. “Do you know what your top risk violations are? Do you know who your top and bottom performers are so that you can better allocate resources or training? Do you get real time alerts on new inspections and keywords that have been cited on an inspection?”

Lohia recommended receiving actionable insights from Ecolab’s HDI system in order to keep on top of food safety violations across a restaurant chain’s portfolio.

Contact Joanna at [email protected]

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