Per an FDA News Release, there is no doubt that you, the state, local, or tribal health inspector, play a significant role in reducing foodborne illness in your jurisdiction, yet your job can be overwhelming at times due to diminishing resources, increasing workload with limited staff, and growing liability. Many of you are continually forced to reassess your priorities due to increased media attention on food safety, threats from emerging pathogens, and food security, while being challenged to do more with less while maintaining your professional integrity.

Although the majority of these challenges are beyond your control, the allocation of your inspectional time is one element that you can change and continue to use to your advantage. You may undoubtedly become frustrated when you find the same violation at the same establishment, inspection after inspection. You may be able to change this pattern by focusing your inspection on the violations most likely to cause foodborne illness and by assisting retail and food service operators in the development or enhancement of food safety management systems to reduce the recurrence of these violations.
This Manual provides you with a manageable scheme for prioritizing your inspections using a risk-based approach. The traditional regulatory inspection places emphasis on assessing compliance with all applicable regulations. The same emphasis may be placed on structural violations of the code as those violations likely to lead to foodborne illness. Although this type of inspection has done a great deal to improve basic sanitation and to upgrade food facilities in the United States, it emphasizes reactive rather than preventive measures. The traditional regulatory inspection only seeks to obtain correction of food safety concerns that already exist, rather than to prevent future violations from occurring.
Each individual in the food chain from farmer to processor to retailer to consumer has some responsibility for food safety. The ultimate responsibility for food safety at the retail level lies not with the regulatory authority but with retail and food service operators and their ability to develop and maintain effective food safety management systems. Nevertheless, you can help industry with this responsibility by utilizing a risk-based inspection approach to identify strengths and weaknesses in their systems and suggesting possible solutions for improvement during inspections.
This Manual was written to provide a “roadmap” for evaluating retail and food service establishments based on the application of HACCP principles. The acronym “HACCP” stands for “Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point.” It is a preventive approach implemented by industry to control food safety hazards. Using HACCP principles during inspections will help to assist you in evaluating the effectiveness of food safety management systems implemented by industry.
The voluntary strategies presented in this Manual also foster food safety partnerships between you and your retail or food service operators, which will facilitate your active role in improving their existing food safety management systems. Please note that this Manual is not a comprehensive resource for learning about HACCP principles; therefore, you should have a basic understanding of the principles of HACCP before using this Manual. Annex 1 lists several resources that are available to you should you require a more comprehensive explanation of HACCP.
Many regulatory jurisdictions are already conducting risk-based inspections using HACCP principles and other innovative approaches. This Manual is based on experience gained from many of these approaches and is provided to you, the regulatory food safety professional, to help you enhance the effectiveness of your inspections by incorporating a risk-based approach.