Background Tourism is an important earner of foreign exchange in Jamaica; hence, the protection of the visitors’ health is very important. A study of travelers to Jamaica in 1996 to 1997 found that travelers’ diarrhea (TD) affected almost 25% of visitors. The Ministry of Health (Jamaica) initiated a program for the prevention and control of TD aimed at reducing attack rates from 25.0% to 12.0% over a 5-year period through environmental health and food safety standards of hotels. This article examines the food safety systems in Jamaican hotels located in a popular resort area to find out how comparable they are with the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) strategy.

Methods A cross-sectional study was done of hotels in St. Mary and St. Ann. Quantitative data were obtained from food and beverage/sanitation staff and qualitative data through in-depth interviews with hotel managers. Observation of the food safety operations was also done.

Results The majority (75%) of larger hotels used a combination of HACCP and Ministry of Health food safety strategies (p = 0.02) and offered all-inclusive services (r =−0.705, p = 0.001). Larger hotels were more likely to have a better quality team approach, HACCP plan, and monitoring of critical control points (CCPs) and more likely to receive higher scores (p < 0.05). More than two thirds of hotel staff were knowledgeable of HACCP. Significantly smaller hotels (87.5%) received less than 70% in overall score (r = 0.75, p = 0.01). Identification of CCPs and monitoring of CCPs explained 96.6% of the change in the overall HACCP scores (p = 0.001). Hotel managers felt that some hotels’ systems were comparable with HACCP and that larger properties were ready for mandatory implementation.

Conclusions While some components of the HACCP system were observed in larger hotels, there were serious shortcomings in its comparison. Mandatory implementation of HACCP would require that sector-specific policies be developed for smaller hotels and implemented on a phased basis.