As hard as it is to believe we are in the year 2023, we can be equally astonished that this is the 30th edition of the FDA Food Code. Released at the end of last year, the 2022 Food Code seeks to modernize state-level food guidance and bring the U.S. foodservice industry food safety practices into the 21st century. Although the traditional Food Code is only 30 years old, with the previous revision being released in 2019 as a supplement to the 2017 Food Code, the guidance dates back almost 90 years. In 1934, the first set of regulations was published, titled Restaurant Sanitation Regulations, by the U.S. Public Health Service in conjunction with the National Restaurant Code Authority and the Conference of State and Territorial Health Officers.
Here are key items that will impact your business this year and in years to come:
Following the trend of rising allergen-related recalls rising, the FDA has designated Sesame as the 9th major food allergen. Major allergens now include:
Other allergen guidance updates include customer notification of allergens in food ingredients, even if the food is unpackaged. This should not be news to most restaurant operators, as allergens, notification, and labeling have been the focus of much effort in past years. Management should ensure that training on the addition to the allergen list and increased requirements for labelling are known by staff, however. Studies have indicated that, while over 70 percent of restaurant staff believe the food they serve is safe, less than half of these employees received allergen-specific training.
The last addition on the allergy topic is the requirement for labeling of bulk food that customers can self-dispense. So yes, those cereal hoppers will need to feature some kind of signage declaring allergens, if applicable.
Until this most recent food code update, dogs have been prohibited from cohabitating in dining spaces with their people, with the exception of patrol dogs and dogs in institutional care facilities. The 2022 Food Code allows for consumers’ dogs to be present, in outdoor dining areas, “where allowed.” As always, consult with your State and local health authorities before allowing pets into your outdoor dining spaces.
The 2022 Food Code has an added subpart for guidelines applicable to food that is to be donated by a retail or food service facility. Namely, items must be “stored, package, displayed and labeled” in a similar fashion to food that is offered for human consumption on or off the premises.
Adoption of Food Code
Do these guidelines even matter? Well, it depends on the state you live in. While these guidelines do reflect the most recent updates in retail food safety best practices and procedures, the map below shows that many states are late to the food safety culture party. As an operator, however, it is in your and your customer’s best interest to air on the side of caution, even if your state is a pre-smartphone adopter of FDA Food Code.
Dr. Nathan Libbey is the Director of Client Success at robochef, Inc, a food automation company in Libertyville, IL. Nathan has spent the past 20 years in a variety of leadership roles in the food space from last mile, to retail, from Global Fortune 100 firms to numerous food and adjacent tech startups. Dr. Libbey has a BA from the University of Wisconsin, as well as a Masters in Regulatory Affairs of Food Industries and Doctor of Law and Policy from Northeastern University, Boston. Nathan also serves on various non-profit boards, teaches Business at Aurora University, and has been featured in college textbooks, food industry journals, and has presented his research at numerous food safety and public health conferences.