On February 12, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) released its most recent revision of the Food Code to reflect the current understanding of best practices in food safety.
The Food Code is a model regulation intended for adoption by local, state, tribal, and territorial governments. The provisions of the Food Code address food safety concerns in restaurants, institutional food service establishments (e.g., schools, hospitals, prisons), grocery stores, convenience stores and other retail food establishments. There is a four-year interval between complete Food Code editions. During the interim period between full editions, FDA may publish a Food Code Supplement that updates, modifies or clarifies certain provisions. The benefits associated with complete and widespread adoption of the 2017 Food Code as statutes, codes and ordinances are viewed by FDA as including:
- Reduction of the risk of foodborne illnesses within food establishments, thus protecting consumers and industry from potentially devastating health consequences and financial losses;
- Uniform standards for retail food safety that reduce complexity and better ensure compliance;
- The elimination of redundant processes for establishing food safety criteria; and
- The establishment of a more standardized approach to inspections and audits of food establishments.
The 2017 Food Code (9th edition) includes several notable updates. These include:
- Person in Charge – The 2017 Food Code Sec. 2-102.12 states that the Person in Charge (PIC) of the food establishment must be a certified food protection manager (CFPM). To qualify as a CFPM, the individual must pass a test as part of an accredited program, such as SafeMark®. While the 2013 Food Code requires that at least one management employee be a CFPM, it does not mandate that the PIC have CFPM credentials.
- Bandages – The 2017 Food Code added a new provision, Sec. 2-401.13, to address the use of bandages, finger cots, or finger stalls worn by employees during food preparation. The provision notes that the use of bandages and similar devices can present a physical health hazard. The Food Code recommends minimizing the risks posted by bandages, finger cots, or finger stalls by covering them with a single-use glove.
- Harmonizing cooking time/temperature parameters – The 2017 Food Code updated the time/temperature parameters for some types of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. See 3-401.11. This revision aligns the Food Code with guidance recommended by the U.S. Department of Agricultures Food Safety and Inspection Service.
- Operations during water/electrical outages – The 2017 Food Code provides an avenue for facilities to remain in operation during extended interruptions of water or electrical service. See 8-404.11. The updated provision authorizes the adopting regulatory authority the discretion to allow a facility to continue operations during an extended water or electrical outage if: (1) the establishment has an approved written emergency operating plan; (2) immediate corrective action is taken to eliminate, prevent, or control food safety risk and imminent health hazards associated with the outage; and (3) the regulatory authority is informed when the written emergency operating plan is implemented.
The impact of FDA’s updates to the 2017 Food Code will vary based on jurisdiction. While FDA and PHS regularly update the Food Code, it is up to local and state governments to decide whether to adopt the most recent version of the Food Code. According to a 2016 FDA report, only 17 states had adopted the then-current 2013 Food Code. In contrast, 20 states had adopted the 2009 Food Code, whereas California operates under the 2001 Food Code. FDA also publishes/updates a summary of:
Questions about the 2017 Food Code may be directed to FDA’s National Retail Food Team.