Food Safety

TLDR: What You Need to Know About the 2023 FDA Food Code Update

Posted by Trust20 Contributors on Feb 12, 2023 2:00:00 PM
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The FDA Food Code is a unified model for best practices to address food safety in order to protect consumers. It has been in circulation for thirty years and provides scientifically sound, technical, and legal basis for regulations in the foodservice industry. It is updated frequently in accordance with new scientific research and the most recent edition was released in January 2023 to reflect some new updates.

The most current code is the 2022 Food Code (10th edition), and a fully new edition is scheduled to be released every four years–with supplemental materials published in the years between, if necessary. States and local jurisdictions are recommended to follow the most updated version, but some will still defer to older editions. Even if your state doesn’t follow the most current version, you should familiarize yourself with the updates to ensure your business is doing everything it can to prevent a foodborne illness outbreak. 

We’ve pulled out some of our key takeaways for you including:

  • Sesame becoming the 9th major food allergen

  • Time as a Public Health control measure

  • Handwashing

  • Ready-to-eat and packaged foods

  • Pet dogs MAY be allowed in outdoor areas

  • New section on food donations

  • When to implement these and other changes

Sesame becomes the 9th Major Food Allergen

Prompted by the rise in food allergies and dangerous, adverse reactions, the FDA added a new major food allergen, bringing the total to nine. They include milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, and now sesame. Sesame seeds are commonly found on hamburger buns, bagels, and sushi, but what other foods on your menu do you need to be aware of? Sesame can be sneaky!

Ingredients Foods and dishes
  • Benne, benniseed
  • Gingelly
  • Gomasio
  • Halvah
  • Sesamol
  • Sesamum indicum
  • Sesemolina
  • Sim sim
  • Tahini, Tahina, Tehina
  • Til
  • Sesame flour, oil, paste, salt, seed
  • Asian cuisine (sesame oil)
  • Baked goods (breads)
  • Cereals and granolas
  • Chips and crackers
  • Dipping sauces, dressings, marinades
  • Falafel
  • Hummus
  • Flavored rice, noodles, risotto
  • Protein and energy bars
  • Shiskabobs, stir fry, and stews
  • Soups
  • Sushi
  • Vegetarian burgers

Keep in mind that these examples from FoodAllergy.org may not always contain sesame, and sesame may show up in things that aren’t listed here. It is your establishment’s responsibility to check the ingredients and inform customers about the potential allergens in a dish. 

There are many strategies you can use to prevent allergic reactions and allergen awareness training is becoming more and more popular among foodservice workers. It is the duty of the person-in-charge to ensure their employees are trained on the major food allergens, and this is likely to be a point that is brought up more frequently during health inspections in the months and years to come.

Time as a Public Health Control Measure

Time and temperature controls and the “temperature danger zone” are familiar to most workers in the foodservice industry. Cold and warm storage methods are the most common ways to hold food within a safe temperature range, but do you know what the procedures are for holding food without temperature controls? This update clarifies this procedure and says:

Hot or cold food can be held up to a maximum of four (4) hours without temperature controls if:

  1. The food has an initial internal temperature of 41°F or less or 135°F or greater when removed from hot or cold holding temperature control
  2. AND the food is marked, or otherwise clearly identified with:
    • The time taken out of temperature control; 
    • The four (4) hour discard time; or 
    • Both. 

Cold foods without temperature control can be held up to a maximum of six (6) hours if:

  1. The food has an initial internal temperature of 41°F or less when removed from temperature control
  2. AND The food temperature does not exceed 70°F at any time during the six (6) hour time period. 

** Note that it is necessary to monitor the temperature with this method of holding food. **

Keep in mind that these may not be options if you work in a facility that deals primarily with vulnerable populations, such as a hospital or nursing home. It is up to your management to determine the best method for keeping foods out in your establishment of the temperature danger zone. Managers are also responsible for ensuring that employees are correctly following procedures and are discarding food immediately if the temperature wanders outside safe parameters. With the FDA Food Code update, managers need to make sure that employees follow time and temperature control procedures for properly thawing food.

Handwashing

The minimum hot water temperature for handwashing sinks has been lowered from 100 °F to 85° F. This small change is not likely to be a noticeable shift in your facility’s handwashing procedures. 

Remember that you should only be washing your hands in a specified handwashing sink and not in a sink used for food preparation or washing utensils and dishware. While the temperature is not as crucial to clean hands, you must wash your hands with soap and water, lathering for at least 10-15 seconds, rinsing, and immediately drying your hands. 

Hand hygiene and cleanliness is a critical component of food safety, and it is one that people often forget to practice with good habits

Ready-to-eat and packaged foods

People often do not think there are any risks for food safety associated with ready-to-eat or packaged foods. They’re “ready-to-eat,” so why do they require any extra steps? Packaged and frozen foods can still be at risk for contamination and the spread of foodborne illness. 

Ready-to-eat foods should be prepared according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the label, unless the label specifically says that cooking is not required. If the manufacturer hasn’t specified that they have processed the food for pathogen control and consumption is appropriate without cooking, it is up to the staff to cook and prepare the food based on time and temperatures that are appropriate for that food. Ready-to-eat foods still require just as much care as other foods in the kitchen.

Pet dogs MAY be allowed in outdoor areas

The 2022 Food Code seems to have opened up a little leeway in the previously hard rule against live animals (except service animals) in a foodservice premises. The new guidelines note that pet dogs may be allowed in outdoor dining areas if approved by the local regulatory authority. Operators will need to decide if they are willing to handle the risks associated with pet dogs in a dining area, and then determine whether or not it is allowed by their regulatory authority. 

New section on food donations

The food code now includes a section outlining some parameters for food donations. While the section is still quite minimal, this update matters because it was previously up to individual states to make determinations about how to handle food donations. The FDA specifically allows for food that is “stored, prepared, packaged, displayed, and labeled in accordance to law and this Code” to be offered for donation.

How long do I have to make these changes?

The 2022 Food Code updates may go into effect immediately in some areas, while other jurisdictions may not adopt them for months or even years. Even if the updates aren’t adopted in your area, operators should be aspiring to practice methods and procedures that are in line with the latest data and science. 

The goal of the FDA Food Code is to create a uniform national standard for retail food safety.  Anyone in the industry can refer back to the Code at any time to learn more about a specific topic Taking the time to review these updates in the 2022 Food Code is a great way to prepare for any changes to your inspection processes and learn information you can share with your coworkers and team.

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