On Sept. 1, North Carolina food service industries began to use the national food service code, which includes major changes for the way food and inspections are handled.
A manager must be in the establishment at all times, employees must wash their arms as well as hands, and employees exhibiting certain symptoms will be excluded from food preparation. These are some of the changes that food retail workers and Health Department officials will encounter as they transition to meet and follow the new code.
“We feel really confident this is going to be good for the citizens of North Carolina,” said Richmond County Health Director Tommy Jarrell on Friday. “We are one of the last states to adopt the national food code.”
Jarrell explained that in past years, North Carolina has made changes to the state’s food code in order to closely follow the national code. Now the state will follow the national code and adopted it as its own.
“We had a good one in place but this one will be very different from what we’ve done in the past,” said Jarrell. “There will be a learning curve in the switching to the new code. That was the primary reason for having meetings.”
The Health Department hosted two meetings, Aug. 29 and Aug. 30, to inform food service workers of the types of changes they can expect to encounter.
“The grading language has changed,” said Holly Haire of Environmental Health, in the Cooperative Extension’s meeting room during a slide show presentation. “There always has to be a PIC — Person in Charge. The employee health policy doesn’t have to be written, but you must be able to tell it.”
Haire went on to explain that no bare hands can make contact with ready-to-eat food, among many other changes. Some changes aren’t new, just spelled out in the rules. Whereas, for instance, hands were to be washed, now the rules spell out that hands must be washed in a hand washing sink. Hand sanitizer may be used, but only after hands have been thoroughly washed with soap and water.
For a full version of the Food Code, you can visit www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/RetailFoodProtection/FoodCode/default.htm.
“My supervisors went to the meetings,” said Jerome Davis, owner of Rockingham’s McDonald’s restaurant. He owns several locations in surrounding counties. “Any code is for the betterment of the citizens. These are things we have to do for the industry. We want great food and safe food as well for people to enjoy.”
Davis said attentiveness will help transition into the new code.
“Holly from the Health Department talked to us a couple months ago to let us know this was coming down the pipe, so we knew about it and were ready,” said Davis.
Some provisions, such as keeping cold food at 41 degrees instead of 45 degrees, will be phased in to give restaurants time to comply. The state estimates that compliance will cost the food service industry $5.5 million during the first four years but that restaurants and other establishments will realize benefits that can’t be quantified from not making people sick.
Industry figures state that an outbreak of food-borne illness costs a restaurant an average of $75,000. Meanwhile, during the same four-year period, the state is expected to save $6 million compared to current costs of dealing with such outbreaks, according to state health officials.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.