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J Public Health Manag Pract. 2010 Jul-Aug;16(4):E7-E17. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3181c4d950.

Preventing intentional food contamination: a survey to assess restaurant preparedness.

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  • 1Department of Health Services Policy and Management, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA.


In the age of preparedness, public health agencies are concerned with intentional acts of food contamination in restaurants, in addition to food safety. Food safety consists of applying standard norms of practice and infrastructure, which, if violated, cause food-borne illness. In contrast, food defense requires an institutionalized mindset of informed alertness to unusual variations from the norms, combined with preemptive practices best suited to each restaurant. Therefore, while food safety lends itself to regulation to ensure standard practices, food defense is best served by advisory guidelines for autonomous application, preserving the restaurant industry's core values of hospitality and customer service. To address this challenge, public health agencies need survey tools that can yield action-relevant data on the knowledge and practice gaps in food defense preparedness and on educational messages and support services to be developed for maximum impact potential. This article presents a mail survey instrument, developed using qualitative research to ensure content and face validity. Instrument development involved drafting the survey on the basis of expert consultations, validating its content by using focus groups (representing all restaurant categories and geographic regions), and ensuring face validity through cognitive interviews. The resulting survey remains sensitive to the hospitality industry while encompassing all vulnerable points.

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