Changes in food safety inspectors' schedules could improve the standards
A new study presented by a group of researchers from Harvard argues that hundreds of thousands of violations are now being overlooked across the United States every year and it also presents a simple solution to fix that, reports Food Safety News.
Changes in the schedule of food safety inspectors could improve the standards in the quality of the food and could avoid 19 million foodborne illnesses, nearly 51,000 hospitalizations and billions of dollars of related medical costs, as “How Scheduling Can Bias Quality Assessment: Evidence from Food Safety Inspections” study reveals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die due to foodborne illnesses annually, despite the fact that government health officers routinely drop in to inspect restaurants, grocery stores, schools and other food-handling establishments.
The authors have spent several weeks accompanying food safety inspectors to see at first hand how they manage their tasks. On average, inspectors cited fewer violations at each successive establishment inspected throughout the day, the researchers found. "The more inspections you have done earlier in the day, the more tired you’re going to be and the less energy you’re going to have to discover violations", mentioned Maria Ibanez, co-author of the study.
Tweaking the inspectors’ schedules could lead to tens of thousands fewer hospital bills, the researchers concluded. "Different scheduling regimes, new training, or better awareness could raise inspectors’ detection to the levels seen after they observe poor hygiene, which would reduce errors even more and result in more violations being detected, cited and corrected", Ibanez says.
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