The U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards (Retail Program Standards) are designed to help food regulatory programs enhance the services they provide to the public.
This post is part of NACCHO’s Retail Program Standards blog series, showcasing the progress that communities across the country have made in retail food protection. Each month, we are featuring the experiences, challenges, and successes of jurisdictions that have worked toward each standard.
All jurisdictions featured have participated in NACCHO’s Retail Program Standards Mentorship Program, which provides peer-to-peer assistance and intensive technical support to help jurisdictions conform with the standards efficiently and effectively.
This month we are focusing on Standard 8: Program Support and Resources, and we are featuring Vineland Health Department:
- Jeanne Garbarino, Assistant Chief REHS (retired), Vineland Health Department, Vineland, NJ
What steps did you take to get started in your work on Standard 8?
Garbarino: The very first thing we did was ask ourselves if we felt like we had enough staff to do everything we needed to complete the Standards. We knew we were completing all of the extra inspections required in Standard 3 with quality HACCP-based inspections. The supervisor was able to complete the self-assessments and quality assurance and standardization inspections when worked on at a reasonable pace. Thus, we felt blessed to be sufficiently staffed. The next step was to complete the full-time equivalent (FTE) charts from the Conference for Food Protection (CFP) and compare our own overall assessment with the numbers the chart determined. CFP’s chart confirmed our initial assessment. For the equipment aspect, we only had to purchase a data logger to complete our inventory. The analysis/statistics aspect was achievable, but not easy with the first software we used.
What was your biggest challenge in working toward Standard 8, and how have you worked to overcome that challenge?
Garbarino: Our biggest challenge was determining FTEs. The chart works well, but understanding some of the terms took time. For example, the term “productivity factoring” was very foreign to us. The definitions section helped quite a bit, but still we had to figure out where different trainings belonged, as there were two different places for them. After really studying the definitions, we were able to come up with accurate average numbers.
What outcomes and benefits came out of working on Standard 8?
Garbarino: Our biggest benefit was being able to purchase our new software. It saved our inspectors a lot of time in writing reports and it saved the supervisor time in doing statistical analyses. If it weren’t for that software program, we would not be able to meet Standard 8 right now. The saved time is now devoted to reducing risk factors by meeting our inspection numbers and conducting on-site training. Using CFP’s FTE chart, we are now able to demonstrate, with an FDA-backed method, the need for the minimum staff, equipment and software.
How do you sustain momentum in your work on Standard 8?
Garbarino: The nice part of Standard 8 is that once you get everything set up initially, it pretty much sustains itself, unless there are changes in work load, etc. Equipment will break or need to be replaced periodically. AFDO and NACCHO mentorship grants greatly help with that. If we ever do find ourselves in the position of needing extra staff, we will certainly use CFP’s FTE chart to prove our need.
What tips do you have for other jurisdictions working toward Standard 8?
Garbarino: Use the FTE chart to your benefit! If you know you don’t have adequate staff, equipment, or software, use this Standard to prove it. Apply for grants when available to help you make your department the best it can be!
How has your work on the Retail Program Standards overall affected your community in terms of public health outcomes?
Garbarino: Our community has benefited in many ways:
- We have reduced risk factors significantly through Standard 9. Cold holding was found to be significantly out of compliance (up to 70% of the time) in restaurants and delis. In our last risk factor study, cold holding was down to 40% out of compliance in delis, a significant drop. Poor personal hygiene was also greatly reduced with a targeted strategic plan and the help of our Food Safety Council.
- We have built solid relationships with our retail industry partners. Most realize we are there to help them now, and they openly talk to us about their problems and how to resolve them. We would never have thought to have an advisory council without Standard 7. It truly works to the benefit of both sides.
- We had major coverage in local newspapers and on one Philadelphia TV news station when we met all nine Standards in 2012. The public now has some clue as to what we do! Our governing body is proud of that achievement, as well.
- Due to Standard 2 and grant funding, our staff is highly trained and quite professional. They have the ability to respond appropriately to outbreaks or other complex complaints. Morale has improved among our inspectors as a result.
Stay tuned for the final post, which will focus on Standard 9: Program Assessment, coming in June.
Contact Amy Chang at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.