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New FDA food safety guidelines released

Revised Model Food Code supports unit-level certified food protection managers

Restaurants, retailers and foodservice institutions each may be required to hire unit-level certified food protection managers if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s revised Model Food Code is adopted by state, county or city jurisdictions.

Last week the FDA released a supplement to its Model Food Code, including several new or amended provisions offering a clearer delineation of the food safety responsibilities of a restaurant or retailer’s “person in charge,” and clearer guidelines for the amount of time a business should be given to correct violations of Food Code provisions.

The FDA’s guidelines are not mandatory, but are used by many state or local jurisdictions to craft food safety standards.

“The FDA is recommending that states and local jurisdictions incorporate into their retail food safety codes and ordinances a requirement that food establishments employ at least one certified food protection manager,” said Stephen King, a spokesman for the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

“Most, if not all, jurisdictions will have to take some action — policy setting, rulemaking or legislation — to make binding the revised provisions of the Food Code,” King added.

Research by the Association of Food and Drug Officials commissioned by the FDA found that as of December 2010, 49 states had patterned their food safety codes after versions of the federal Model Food Code.

Read the 2009 Food Code supplement

“I think the points listed by the FDA's action plan are good steps towards strengthening food safety in the U.S. foodservice industry,” said Carl Klein, executive director of food safety for Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. of San Diego.

Garden Fresh operates more than 120 Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes salad-buffet restaurants at which all managers are National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation ServSafe program certified and must pass a proprietary food-safety test, among other requirements, according to Klein.

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Representatives of the National Restaurant Association have said that at least 24 states already require restaurants to have certified food protection managers. In the other 26 states, some local jurisdictions may have requirements for the employment of such specialized employees, or the state may require such a hire for a specific restaurant or chain that has had food safety problems, they said.

The supplement to the 2009 Food Code mandates that to fulfill the certified food protection manager requirement, an employee must be certified through an educational program that is evaluated and listed by a Conference for Food Protection-recognized accrediting agency.

“Food safety is of paramount interest to the industry — America's restaurants take pride in serving safe, affordable and nutritious food,” said Joan McGlockton, the NRA’s vice president of industry affairs and food policy. “We look forward to working with FDA on the implementation of its action plan and are working to keep our members informed.”

Officials of the NRA and National Council of Chain Restaurants voiced support for requiring certified food protection managers at the unit level when FDA officials said last year they were planning to introduce such a requirement.

The Food Code supplement was announced by officials of the Washington, D.C.-based FDA as part of a new “Retail Food Safety Action Plan.” That plan, they said, intends to improve how in-store managers conduct food safety operations and improve the oversight of restaurants, institutions and retail establishments by public health agencies at the federal, state and local levels.

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In support for the Action Plan, FDA officials said the agency also has established a cooperative agreement with the National Association of County and City Health Officials, or NACCHO.

“Under the agreement, FDA and NACCHO will promote the use of best practices by local authorities and develop tools to strengthen retail food safety oversight and implement FDA’s Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards,” the FDA said.

The supplement to the 2009 Model Food Code calls for the duties of a restaurant’s “person in charge” to entail:

• That all operating procedures required by the Food Code are developed and implemented.

• That it can be verified that all employees are informed about their obligation to report certain health conditions that relate to transmission of foodborne illness.

• That any food the establishment receives after operating hours, or through a so-called “key drop,” is delivered in a manner that does not create a food safety hazard.

Other changes included in the Food Code supplement include:

• Requiring that food establishments have a plan for responding to and properly cleaning up after an employee or other individual becomes physically ill in areas where food may be prepared, stored or served.

• A clarification of what constitutes appropriate exceptions to the prohibition of bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods prepared in the establishment.

• A clarification of the requirements for the safe storage and display of ground and whole-muscle meat and poultry.

• New requirements for devices used to generate chemical sanitizers on-site in the food establishment.

Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @AJ_NRN

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