An exploratory study of food safety and food handling: Examining ready-to-eat foods in independent delicatessen operations


The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2009) reports that each year 76 million cases of foodborne illness occur with over 300,000 people hospitalized and 5000 deaths. This study, phase I of a continuing study, identifies key areas for food safety improvement. This study is designed as an exploratory evaluation of independently owned and operated delicatessen operations, using Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus as indicators to assess food handling and the public’s risk for pathogenic contamination from commonly served ready-to-eat/take-away foods. The analysis consisted of a comprehensive strategy of laboratory testing of samples for pathogenic contamination, informal field observation of food handling procedures, and the examination of the most recent health inspection reports for each of the 18 operations visited. The deli turkey, cream cheese and lettuce were tested using bacteria indicator plates. The results showed widespread levels of contamination. Of the 54 samples tested for Escherichia coli, 26 showed positive results which are ~45% for E. coli contamination. Of the 54 samples tested for Staphy-lococcus aureus, 31 showed positive results which are ~57% for S. aureus contamination. One issue discovered while conducting the study was the lack of consistent uniform international standards of contamination tolerance levels. The informal field observations and health report analyses revealed widespread temperature violations and numerous instances of poor food handling. The study offers independent practitioners a strategy designed to improve their health inspections scores, food handling, and mitigation of operator liability. Independent operators traditionally do not enjoy the resources of centralized supervision and expert on-staff training; yet in aggregate they account for significant volume in both dollars and the quantity of product served. This study adds needed scrutiny to this important food niche.

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Murray, D. , Feldman, C. , Lee, L. and Schuckers, C. (2013) An exploratory study of food safety and food handling: Examining ready-to-eat foods in independent delicatessen operations. Advances in Bioscience and Biotechnology, 4, 430-436. doi: 10.4236/abb.2013.43A057.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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