State by State Food Code Update

June 3, 2016 | EcoSure Food Safety Monitor

By Miriam Eisenberg, MS, RD, CP-FS

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) contracted with The Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) to gather data on the progress of FDA Food Code adoptions by States, Territories, and Indian Health Service. Adoption of the Food Code represents a successful federal/state/local partnership in improving food safety. As of February 2016, all states have code based on the FDA Food Code but currently only seven have adopted the 2013 Food Code and 23 have adopted the 2009 Food Code. Currently five states are still operating with code from before 2000. While this is constantly evolving, it gives a good starting point when looking for this information.

It is important to understand the complexities around this—the Food Code is not law but rather a set of suggestions based on current science and input from those involved in food regulations including government, academia, industry and consumers. The Code is updated every four years to guide health departments around the country. Laws are set at a local level, and there is not a mandate to use the most current Code so states may update their laws when they choose. States may also make modifications and additions to their version of the Code. Here are two examples of this:

  • Wyoming did not include leafy green as TCS foods while adopting 2009 Food Code
  • Oregon adopted the 2009 Food Code but allows Bare Hand Contact

These divergences from the national Code are a result of local lobbying. There are about 3,000 health departments and over 700 regulatory agencies in the U.S. They do not have to adopt the same Code as their state and can base the local code on a prior or later version of the Code than the state, plus each regulatory agency can make their own modifications and additions. You can access the full report here.

So what does a chain, whether two restaurants or thousands, do to keep in compliance across the country?

EcoSure uses the most current Food Code as a base for its third party food safety inspections and works with national chain customers to update their standards. In most cases, this results in more strict, detailed standards. One exception is that while the current Food Code mandates hot holding at 135˚F or more, older versions in use by some health departments still require 140 ˚F. The Code was lowered when science showed hot holding at 135 ˚F and above maintained food safety. Note that this is not necessarily an ideal food temperature to serve guests as it is not “piping” hot.

While reading through the entire Food Code can be daunting, I suggest you review Inspection Form 3A in Annex 7 to understand the basis for inspection questions. You can also check out Annex 3 for Public Health Reasons behind the Food Code items.