Recently in Retail food safety Category

Martin Bucknavage April 17 2008

This week, I had the opportunity to attend the Conference for Food Protection meeting in Texas.  The Conference is a gathering of regulators and leaders from the foodservice and retail industries.  The purpose is for both groups to jointly determine and recommend changes to the U.S. Food Code.  Recommendations are developed by Conference committees, further defined by select councils, and then voted on by the appointed delegates from each state.   Those recommendations with majority support are sent to the FDA for consideration and hopeful inclusion in the Food Code.  There is no time table for when, or if, the recommendations will be adopted by the FDA.  However, since officials from the FDA are involved in the Conference, chances are good that some action will be taken.  The Food Code affects retail and foodservice establishments.

I wanted to take this time to share with you some of the more relevant recommendations that were approved. 

1) Hot holding temperature changed from 135 F to 130 F.
2) Cut leafy greens listed as a PHF-TCS food requiring a maximum holding temperature of 45 F – this is storage temperature, not internal bag temperature. (Initially, the committee suggested a storage temperature of 41F or less, however industry rejected that due to limitations of current equipment.  I would not be surprised to see this limit lowered to 41 F in years to come.  Establishments purchasing equipment for leafy greens may wish to purchase coolers capable of maintaining a temperature below 41).
3) A section was expanded to include separate definitions for meat tenderization and meat injection.
4) An allowance for water rinsing after chemical sanitizer application, when appropriate residual contact time has been achieved.
5) A provision to allow cut tomatoes to be held for 4 hours after cutting, even if the starting temperature of the tomatoes was room temperature (In the Food Code, when handling a PHF-TCS products, products were to have an initial temperature of 41 F or below, or greater than 135. This provision will take into account the slicing of room temperature tomatoes.)
6) A statement allowing for partially cooking meat and poultry, as long as proper cooling procedures are followed. (Partial cooking of meat and poultry items are not specifically addressed in the Food Code.)
7) Removal of the term “critical item” from the food code and replace with a three tier designation of “Category 1”, “Category 2”, and “Category 3” (where “Category 1” designates where application contributes directly to the elimination, preventions, or reduction to an acceptable level, hazards associated with food borne illness or injury and there isn’t another provision that more directly controls the hazard; “Category 2” means an item that supports, facilitates, or enables the Category 1, and “Category 3” which represents pre-requisite programs such as general sanitation, equipment design, etc.)

Again, it is difficult to say when, or if, these items will be adopted into the Food Code.  However, these items represent current thinking of regulators and industry leaders, so it would be beneficial for you to be knowledgeable of these potential changes, and to disseminate them when appropriate (Certainly if someone is buying equipment, they may need to know that these changes may be coming, however, although a hold holding temperature of 130F is safe, we don't want operators doing that until it is adopted by the FDA and then by the State).

A few other items of note (although no action was taken by the Conference at this time):

- There was an interesting discussion on hand soap dispensers.  It has been shown that high levels of bacteria may be present in refillable dispensers.  The likely reason is that establishment employees may be diluting soap to extend their soap supply.  However, by doing this, the preservative concentrations are diluted out, resulting in bacterial contamination of the soap.
It was reported that bacteria  in the soap can be transferred to food from the hands of those using the contaminated soap.  Even doing it once may cause this issue for many subsequent refills.
- Reduced oxygen packaging for seafood – certain seafood items require storage temperatures lower than 41 degree F.  It is important that these fish items be stored at the lower temperature stated on the package, even though there are no provisions in the Food Code for the lower temperature settings.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or would like any further information.

Martin Bucknavage
Food Safety Extension Associate
Department of Food Science
Penn State University
438 Food Science Bldg
University Park, PA  16802
Ph 814-867-1839
Fax 814-863-6132
Email mwb124@psu.edu

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