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NC Department of Health and Human Services Announces Major Changes in Food Code to Improve Food Safety

Press release from The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services:

Sept. 11, 2012. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announces significant changes to North Carolina’s food code that will help restaurants and food trucks ensure safer food for diners. The changes, which took effect September 1, reinforce the strong partnership between retail food service and public health to assure that the public can have even greater confidence that the food they eat when dining out is safe.

“The new food code represents the most comprehensive change in North Carolina’s food protection standards in more than 30 years,” said Al Delia, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary. “It establishes practical, science-based rules and provisions to help avoid food-borne illnesses like noroviruses and salmonella.”

According to Larry Michael, head of food protection with DHHS’ Division of Public Health, state and local public health staff have worked closely with local health departments and restaurants to train and promote updated food handling practices required under the new rules.

“Restaurant owners know that safe food is good business,” Michael said. “We believe the changes resulting from implementing the new Food Code give restaurants the tools they need to provide a safer dining experience since the new rules focus on risk factors that cause food-borne illness.”

According to the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association, implementing the new Food Code has been a multi-disciplinary effort that has involved education between business and public health.

“North Carolina’s adoption of the FDA Food Code heightens consistency within our state and brings our code in line with what is being used across the nation,” said Alyssa Barkley, interim president and CEO of the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association. “The best part about this is the common goal to serve healthy and safe food in a healthy and safe manner. One foodborne illness outbreak can close an operation forever. We want to protect the public and protect our businesses.”

Under the updated North Carolina Food Code:

  • Food establishments will be required to refrain from handling exposed, ready-to-eat foods with bare hands.
  • Each food establishment will be required to develop and adhere to an Employee Health Policy to prevent and control the transmission of illnesses.
  • During hours of operation, all restaurants must have a certified food protection manager who has passed an American National Standards Institute-accredited exam. This requirement will be phased in and become effective Jan. 1, 2014.
  • Food establishments will be required to decrease the temperature of refrigerated foods and must date-mark opened, ready-to-eat foods.

Michael also noted that the restaurant rating system has changed under the new food code. Although sanitation rating cards showing the grade and score will continue to be posted, restaurants will no longer be able to earn “bonus points” for completing voluntary food safety training. Under the new code certification will be required as part of the inspection. The new code also applies now to local food trucks and pushcarts and all vendors will be required to post a sanitation rating card for patrons to see.

Anyone interested in the new code can view it at: http://ehs.ncpublichealth.com/rules.htm.