The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recently released 2022 FDA Food Code(Opens in a new window) offers updated guidance on how restaurants, food service operators, and retailers can reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and address public safety issues related to food, including allergen concerns.
The National Restaurant Association’s recent webinar The 2022 Food Code and You(Opens in a new window)—now available to watch on demand—explores the updates and provides a breakdown of how the recent changes impact day-to-day restaurant operations.
While the Food Code is not law itself, states and local jurisdictions typically look to it when setting their laws regulating foodservice and retail food stores. Some jurisdictions adopt the latest Food Code almost immediately, while others undertake a lengthy legislative process that can take several years.
Regardless of whether your jurisdiction has adopted the latest updates, the 2022 Food Code provides the “most science-based, up-to-date recommendations,” says webinar presenter Benjamin Chapman, Ph.D., head of the Agricultural and Human Sciences Department at North Carolina State University. “It represents where we should all be striving to be.”
During the webinar, Chapman, along with co-presenter Patrick Guzzle, vice president of Food Science for the Association, highlights several significant updates to the Food Code:
- Sesame sensitivities. The 2022 Food Code adds sesame to the list of major food allergens, which also includes milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.
- Allergen labeling. The latest Food Code requires that bulk foods for consumer self-dispensing be labeled to indicate any major food allergens. It’s unclear how local jurisdictions might interpret this, but the requirement could possibly pertain to salad bars and buffets. “Having a conversation with your local regulator about that interpretation becomes really, really important,” Chapman points out.
- Allergy-awareness specifications. Allergy-awareness training has long been a Food Code requirement. The 2022 Food Code adds clarification, specifying that employees be able to identify the major food allergens and the symptoms these could cause through an allergic reaction. To help properly train industry employees, the Association offers a ServSafe Allergens(Opens in a new window)course.
- Handwashing temps. The new Food Code specifies that the temperature at handwashing sinks should be at least 85°F, in line with the Uniform Plumbing Code. Run the water hot for a few minutes and use a digital thermometer to gauge the temperature of the water stream.
- Pets on patios. The 2022 Food Code opens the door on this issue, stating that “if approved by the regulatory authority, food establishments may allow pet dogs in outdoor dining areas.”
- Intact meat re-defined. The FDA revised the definition of intact meat to help clarify time/temperature cooking requirements for meats. The Food Code now defines intact meat as “a cut of whole-muscle(s) meat that has not undergone comminution (reducing to fragments/small pieces), mechanical tenderization, vacuum tumbling with solutions, reconstruction, cubing, or pounding.”
- Temperature changes. The 2022 Food Code provides updated guidance on using “time as a public health control” to help prevent bacterial growth and related foodborne illnesses. In the past, food could be held up to four hours without temperature control only if it started at an initial temperature of 41°F or less, or 135°F or greater. The latest guidance has added some exceptions that allow certain foods, including ready-to-eat hermetically sealed foods and freshly cut fruit, to start at an ambient temperature of 70°F or below, provided the temperature doesn’t exceed 70°F within a maximum of four hours.
- Food-donation provisions. For the first time ever, the Food Code offers guidance on how to safely donate food, specifying that “food stored, prepared, packaged, displayed and labeled in accordance to law and this Code may be offered for donation.” “This is a great addition to the Food Code,” Guzzle says. “I’m a huge fan of this concept.”