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A systems-based food safety evaluation: an experimental approach.

* In recent years, many agencies and jurisdictions have begun applying hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) principles to food safety inspections.

* The HACCP concept involves charting the flow of foods in any operation, identifying the hazards associated with those flows, and looking for controls for certain critical steps.

* This approach was originally designed for large processors.

* It has proven difficult to use and sustain, both by small retail operations and by regulators.

* Over the past two years, the National Park Service (NPS) Public Health Program (PHP) has been exploring a concept that combines HACCP methodology with an older idea, General Systems Theory.

* General Systems Theory was first proposed in the 1940s by biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy.

* Systems theory emphasizes the need to understand the underlying interactions of all of the forces that make up any system.

* It holds that all systems have what are called natural "set points," essentially outcomes.

* The set points are predetermined by the nature of these underlying forces.

* Using General Systems Theory, NPS has been pilot-testing an experimental, systems-based food safety evaluation at food service operations in the National Park system.

* A draft methodology for the evaluation process specifies the following steps:

1. system description;

2. process evaluation that places each menu item into one of three categories:

a. not cooked or not cooked on premises,

b. cook and serve, or

c. complex flows;

3. exploration of underlying cause and effect; and

4. documentation and strengthening the system.

* This approach has shown potential to

-- improve the ability to identify food safety hazards,

-- more deeply understand the underlying reasons that food safety is compromised, and

-- use this information to design more intelligent interventions.

* NPS hopes to expand the initial pilot efforts.

* The next step will be to devise ways to measure whether the systems theory approach helps regulators and operators gain additional control over food safety issues.

This department, Practical Stuff! originated from you, our readers. Many of you have expressed to us that one of the main reasons you read the Journal of Environmental Health is to glean practical and useful information for your everyday work-related activities. In response to your feedback, we dedicate this section to you with salient points to remember about two to three articles in each issue.
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Title Annotation:Practical Stuff!
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Date:Nov 1, 2004
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