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Public Policy and Administration


Linda Day


Foodborne illness is a persistent problem in the food service industry. Restaurant inspections reveal that only 60-70% of restaurants are in compliance with health code requirements, which vary from state to state and county to county. In Maryland, 5 of the state's 24 counties have a requirement that restaurants classified as medium- or high-priority food establishments must employ certified food managers (CFMs). It is unknown how this requirement has influenced the operation of the affected restaurants and the extent to which the requirement has resulted in improved food handling safety. The purpose of this quantitative study was to determine the effectiveness of CFMs in reducing the incidence of foodborne illness in Maryland counties. The study was based on the theory of planned behavior. The study was also based on the relationship between foodborne illness outbreaks and the presence of CFMs and the role such managers can play in reducing those outbreaks. Data were collected from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reports regarding foodborne illness outbreaks from 2004 to 2013. A total of 288 establishments were selected for analysis. Data analysis involved comparing results for the 5 counties that require CFMs with the 19 counties that lack this requirement. Results showed a significance difference of 0.008 (95% CI, 0.005), z = 4.71, p = 0.000 in the proportion of foodborne illness outbreaks between county restaurants that require CFMs and those without such a requirement. Social change implications include the potential to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness, thereby contributing to improved public health. The patrons who live in Maryland counties without onsite CFMs risk exposure to foodborne illness more than those living in counties with CFMs.

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