Food safety is an important part of providing school children with acceptable, safe, and nutritious meals. There is evidence that improvements are needed in the area of food safety in schools, and that few schools have implemented Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs. The purposes of this study were to determine the attitudes of school foodservice directors toward food safety and the use of HACCP programs in school foodservice and to identify the challenges to implementing food safety and HACCP programs.A focus group was conducted to generate a list of challenges to implementing food safety and HACCP programs. As a result, a three-part written questionnaire was developed. For Part 1, school foodservice directors' attitudes toward food safety and HACCP programs were determined. For Part 2, the challenges to implementing food safety and HACCP were investigated. For Part 3, demographic information about directors and their districts was collected. Questionnaires were mailed to a randomly selected national sample of 800 district school foodservice directors. A total of 461 questionnaires were returned for a response rate of 58%.
Factor analysis was conducted on 11 attitude and 19 challenge statements to determine any underlying factors. The significant factors that emerged for the attitude scale were HACCP disadvantages, certification advantages, and certification disadvantages. Three significant factors emerged for the challenges scale: resource management, employee motivation, and employee confidence. Multiple regression analysis was used to determine relationships among variables.
The school foodservice directors responding to the questionnaire either did not perceive the challenges identified by the focus group as problematic in their district, or they were unsure if these challenges impacted their district. In general, the directors had a positive attitude about food safety and the use of HACCP programs in their districts. However, the majority (70%) of directors did not have a HACCP program in place, and many were unsure of what HACCP was or how to apply it in their operations. In response to an open-ended question about how food safety could be improved in their district, 29% of the directors indicated that they needed more time and 22% indicated that more money was needed for training. Other areas mentioned included improved employee attitudes and incentives, facilities/equipment modifications, increased staffing, and more training.
It is apparent that school foodservice directors need assistance in developing and implementing HACCP programs. Mentoring of younger school foodservice directors and providing HACCP resource materials would support HACCP implementation.