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Food Code Finds

Did you know that one of the most important documents for the U.S. foodservice packaging industry is the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code? Have you ever even heard of it, or read what it has to say about foodservice packaging? Well, I’m here to give you the 411.

The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publishes the “Food Code,” a model that assists folks at all levels of government by providing them with a scientifically sound technical and legal basis for regulating restaurants, grocery stores and institutions. While the Food Code is neither federal law nor federal regulation, it does represent FDA's best advice for a uniform system of regulation to ensure that food (and packaging) is safe and properly protected and presented.

From a broad standpoint, the Food Code is helpful in that it authoritatively spells out the sanitary and health advantages of single-use foodservice items and mandates their use in certain circumstances. In the Food Code’s Public Health Reasons/Administrative Guidelines, it reads “In situations in which the reuse of multiuse items could result in foodborne illness to consumers, single-service and single-use articles must be used to ensure safety.” Additionally, “A food establishment without facilities...for cleaning and sanitizing kitchenware and tableware shall provide only single-use kitchenware, single-service articles, and single-use articles for use by food employees and single-service articles for use by consumers.” (See §4-502.12)

More specific details related to foodservice packaging may be found in Chapter 4 - Equipment, Utensils, and Linens:

·        Characteristics of foodservice packaging: Materials that are used to make single-service and single-use articles may not allow the migration of deleterious substances or impart colors, odors, or tastes to food, and these items shall be safe and clean. (See §4-102.11)

·        Where foodservice packaging should and should not be stored: The items should be stored in a clean, dry location, where they are not exposed to splash, dust or other contamination and at least 6 inches above the floor. These items should also be kept in their original protective package or stored by using other means that afford protection from contamination until used. It also lists where these items should NOT be stored, like in locker rooms, bathrooms, garbage rooms, mechanical rooms, under leaky pipes, under open stairwells or under other sources of contamination. (See §4-903.11 and §4-903.12)

·        How foodservice packaging should be treated: These items should be handled, displayed and dispensed so that contamination of food-and lip-contact surfaces is prevented. Single-service articles that are intended for food-or lip-contact should be furnished to consumers with the original individual wrapper intact or from an approved dispenser. Moreover, knives, forks and spoons that are not prewrapped should be presented so that only the handles are touched by employees and consumers. (See §4-904.11)

This last bullet is particularly important as FPI receives questions from time to time about whether foodservice packaging needs to be wrapped. As it turns out, that all depends on in which state the item is found. Most states have adopted the U.S. Food Code verbatim. Other states have made their own tweaks. For example, Connecticut’s Public Health Code states “Drinking straws or any other device, hollow in nature, whereby through its use a beverage can be drawn into the mouth shall be separately wrapped either individually or in pairs with a sanitary protective covering for individual use.” Another tweak often found in state codes is the requirement by hotels to wrap single-use cups found in guest rooms.

BTW, while we are most concerned about single-use foodservice items, you may be interested to learn that the Food Code also addresses reusable cups and containers. Food establishments are allowed to provide multi-use to-go containers to consumers, but the Code recognizes that these containers are likely to be soiled when the consumer returns the container for reuse. For this reason, food establishments must first clean and sanitize these items before refilling and returning to the customer. The rules are slightly different for reusable cups – cups don’t need to be cleaned and washed onsite, but simply rinsed with fresh, hot water before refilling. All I can say is gross.

If you’d like to read more about the Food Code, you may find a copy of it here, and links to individual states' food codes may be found here. 

Posted By Lynn M. Dyer (President) | 2/24/2015 2:03:43 PM