By Jill Hollingsworth, VP, Food Safety and Retail Industry Relations, Ecolab
What is the FDA Food Code?
It is the Food and Drug Association’s (FDA’s) best advice (based on scientific recommendations) for a uniform system that address the safety and protection of food offered at retail and in food service. The Food Code as provided by FDA is not a regulation or a rule but rather a guide to best practices. A revised Food Code is published every 4 years.
How does the Food Code get adopted?
Regulatory bodies within each state or jurisdiction can decide what version or sections of a Food Code they will adopt. It is up to the legislature or governing body to vote on what regulations they will choose to enforce. Retailers should be aware of the regulations in the jurisdictions where they operate, realizing that the regulations can be different in each state.
How is the FDA Food Code used?
The model Food Code is provided for use by food regulatory jurisdictions at all levels of government (such as state and county regulatory bodies) by adoption in whole or in part.
It applies to retail, full service and quick service restaurants, vending, hospitals, and nursing homes. It does not apply to manufacturing or food processing facilities.
The Food Code identifies provisions based on the level of risk that is controlled by therecommendations. These designations are:
PRIORITY ITEM (P) – previously called “critical” items. These provisions contribute directly to the elimination, prevention, or reduction of hazards associated with foodborne illness and where there is no other provision that more directly controls the hazard.
PRIORITY FOUNDATION (Pf) – supports or enables Priority items.
CORE ITEM – usually relates to general sanitation, operational controls, sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOPs), facilities or structures, equipment design, or general maintenance.
Summary of major changes made to the 2022 FDA Food Code:
Remember that it is up to each state or individual jurisdiction to adopt all or certain sections of the code. At this time, we do not know of any states that have adopted changes from the 2022 code. All of the Food Code recommendations are reliant upon jurisdictions adopting these changes.
Water Temperature at the Hand Sink:
Amended to revise the hot water temperature at the hand sink from at least 38°C (100°F) to at least 29.4°C (85°F). Handwashing sink must be capable of delivering running water that is at least 29.4°C (85°F) in jurisdictions that accept this change.
Amended to allow pet dogs in outdoor dining areas, where approved.
Sesame has been added as the ninth major food allergen and a new section amended to indicate what is meant by food allergy awareness. Food allergy awareness includes describing foods identified as major food allergens and the symptoms that a major food allergen could cause in a sensitive individual who has an allergic reaction. “Allergen labeling” has also been added to the list of label information on bulk food available for consumer self-dispensing. Ensure all persons responsible for food preparation and service are aware of the nine major food allergens and the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
The term “food donation” has also been added to the Food Code. The Food Code is amended to include “or donated” in the application of this Code in public health protection. Regulatory shall apply this code to promote its underlying purpose of safeguarding public health and ensuring that food is safe, unadulterated, and honestly presented, when offered to the consumer “or donated.”
Monitoring the thawing process has been added to the duties of the person in charge (PIC). In addition, improper thawing processes are now considered a Priority foundation (Pf) violation.
Time as a Public Health Control:
When using time without temperature as a public health control for RTE produce or hermetically sealed food that becomes a TCS food only after it is cut, chopped, or opened, and the food is held up to a maximum of 4 hours, the food may have an initial temperature of 21°C (70°F) or less if;
- it’s a RTE fruit or vegetable that upon cutting is rendered a TCS food (e.g., tomatoes, melons); or
- it’s a RTE hermetically sealed food that upon opening is rendered TCS food (e.g., canned tuna); and
- the food temperature does not exceed 21°C (70°F) from the time it was rendered a TCS food; and
- the food is marked or otherwise identified to indicate the 4-hour time limit.
For all other types of TCS foods: Initial temperature of 5°C (41°F) or less when removed from cold holding temperature control, or 57°C (135°F) or greater when removed from hot holding temperature.
Produce Wash Testing Devices:
Amended to include reference for the use of produce wash testing devices. Fruits and vegetables may be washed by using chemicals as specified, and a test kit or other device that accurately measures the active ingredient concentration of the fruit and vegetable wash solution may be provided. This amendment does not state that test kits or measuring devices shall be provided, but rather says they may be provided.
Other Risk Designation Changes:
Amended to add the risk designation of Priority foundation (Pf) item that was inadvertently left off in the 2017 Food Code for cleaning agents that are used to clean equipment and utensils, which shall be provided and available for use during all hours of operation (Pf). Prohibition of storage of food and food utensils in toilet rooms and proper thawing procedures were also changed to Pf.
Additional changes and clarifications were made to definitions of shellstock, tobacco product, intact meat, poisonous or toxic material, and Reduced Oxygen Packaging (ROP). In addition, there were changes made to exclude certain types of food establishments from PIC requirements, identification of types of meat and source, documentation for shellfish, raw and RTE food separation, manufacturer cooking instructions, certified food equipment, and the removal of chemically treated towelettes for handwashing for temporary use.
Adoption of the FDA Food Code is not consistent and multiple states use different versions.
Go to Adoption of the FDA Food Code by State and Territorial Agencies Responsible for the Oversight of Restaurants and Retail Food Stores 2021 to see what version of the Food Code is being used in each State and Territory.
For more information, tune in to Ecolab The New FDA Food Code: Ecolab Webinar Series on March 29 at 2 PM EST; Click Here to Register
This synopsis of the FDA’s “Summary of Changes in the 2022 FDA Food Code” is intended only for informational purposes and does not constitute legal or regulatory advice. Specific questions on adoption of these changes or regulatory interpretation should be directed to regulatory authority or legal counsel.