The FDA Model Food Code

April 11, 2022

By Jill Hollingsworth, VP, Food Safety and Retail Industry Relations, Ecolab

What is the Food Code?

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Code is a model code that encompasses guidelines and recommendations for best food safety practices to ensure that food offered at retail food establishments and in food service is safe, unadulterated, and honestly presented. It provides a scientifically sound basis for the implementation of retail practices and for the regulation of this sector of the food industry.    

The Food Code is not a regulation, and it does not carry the legal basis for enforcement. However, thousands of state, local, tribal, and territorial government agencies and jurisdictions with responsibility for regulating retail food stores adopt this model code into their own regulations at which time it becomes mandatory. The FDA model Food Code is a useful reference document, which provides uniform guidance on food safety and sanitation for government inspection agencies.  

The FDA issues a new edition of the Food Code every four years and provides supplementals when appropriate in the intervening two years. The most recent Food Code, the ninth edition, was released in 2017. Some regulatory jurisdictions have adopted the Food Code in previous years, and they have not updated their regulations to the most current edition.  


Often, when seeking clarification or information on a regulatory issue, especially when related to food safety, public health, or retail operations, reference will be made to the Food Code provisions. This is done because the model code is based on the best current science, it has been adopted by many regulatory agencies, and it can serve as a single reference rather than attempting to consider the thousands of regulatory jurisdictions’ specific rules.  

It can be a daunting task to determine if your local regulations are the same as the recommendations in the FDA Food Code. That is one reason why adoption of the Food Code by all regulatory jurisdictions has long been a goal of FDA and retailers alike.    

Here are a few examples of why uniform adoption of the most current version of the Food Code can benefit both regulators and the industry: 

  • Promotes uniform national standards for retail food safety to reduce complexity and better ensure compliance. 
  • Ensures food safety regulations reflect the most current science available and evolve to reflect new science and knowledge and incorporate emerging technologies.  
  • Provides a comprehensive approach to food safety management and provides extensive supporting documents and training. 
  • Facilitates and allows for standardization of audits and inspections and allows comparison of performance across national chains by providing standardized inspection criteria.  
  • Creates a common/standardized food safety language that can improve communication between regulators and industry operators. 
  • Reduces industry Food Safety training costs by allowing the utilization of training materials that can be used across all jurisdictions. 

Below is a map showing the status of Food Code adoption by state. For specific details on each state, go to the interactive version of this map at:


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