Utilization of Food Sample Results to Improve Food Safety

An Effective Practice


Starting in April 2002, the Foodborne Illness Program of the Maricopa County Environmental Services Department, Environmental Health Division began using food sample results from alleged foodborne illness complaints to verify how procedural changes in food preparation can lower the microbial load on prepared food, thus reducing the risk factors associated with food borne illness. This program was directly aimed at food establishment owners/operators who have been involved in foodborne illness complaints/outbreaks, and it has made a direct impact on any establishment that has registered high bacterial counts on prepared foods.

Goal / Mission

The goal of this program is to reduce the risk of foodborne illness for Maricopa County citizens and visitors by using food sample results to address complaints and increase the efficacy of routine inspections.

Results / Accomplishments

By linking food samples taken prior to and after procedural changes within the food service establishment, the Foodborne Illness Program has shown a 92 percent reduction in the microbial load of these food items. Food service operators are more willing to alter food preparation practices when offered documented proof that the microbial load on certain food items is above the suggested limit. Re-sampling following procedural changes shows an improvement in microbial load and reinforces the efficacy of procedural changes. As a result, inspectors are not finding repeated violations during the next routine inspection.

About this Promising Practice

Primary Contact
Aimee Upton, Special Programs Manager
(602) 506-6929
Health / Food Safety
Maricopa County Environmental Services, AZ
National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)
Date of publication
Date of implementation
Apr 2002
Maricopa County, AZ
For more details
Additional Audience
Food Service Establishments