By: Ashley Eisenbeiser, MS, CFS, Director, Food and Product Safety Programs, Food Marketing Institute

State Reg of FDA Food CodeThe FDA Food Code is one of those “go-to” resources for many retail food safety professionals.  The Food Code provides a foundation for many regulatory agencies across the U.S. and is a model that represents FDA’s best advice for a uniform system of regulation in order to protect public health and ensure the safety of food at retail and foodservice operations.  The first version of the Food Code was published in 1993 so this year marks the 25th year of the Food Code.  The 2017 Food Code, the most recent version, was published last month and is available on the FDA Retail Food Protection webpage along with a Summary of Changes made to the 2017 Food Code

Although the 2017 FDA Food Code has been released, many jurisdictions are using previous Food Code versions.  For the most part, state and local regulatory agencies have to go through lengthy legislative processes in order to adopt a newer version of the FDA Food Code.  Often, by the time the legislative process plays out, a newer Food Code is already available.   A new Food Code is published every four years and a supplement is usually published during the time between Food Code editions. 

According to a recent FDA report on the Adoption of the FDA Food Code by State and Territorial Agencies, “There are 66 state agencies responsible for providing regulatory oversight of either restaurants, or retail food stores, or both.”

Thirty-seven states (including DC) have a single state regulatory agency responsible for regulating restaurants and retail food stores.  Fourteen states have multiple regulatory agencies. Of those 14 states:

  • One state (FL) has three agencies, where:
    • Two agencies are responsible for both restaurants and retail food stores.
    • One agency is responsible for restaurants.
  • Four states (CT, MS, OH, VT) have two agencies, where:
    • One agency is responsible for both restaurants and retail food stores.
    • One agency is responsible for retail food stores.
  • Seven states (GA, ME, NY, OR, TN, UT, VA) have two agencies, where:
    • One agency is responsible for restaurants.
    • One agency is responsible for retail food stores.
  • Two States (MN, WI) have two agencies, where:
    • Two agencies are responsible for both restaurants and retail food stores.

While the Food Code is not a federally mandated regulation, each state has at least one agency who has adopted the Food Code.  However, the version that regulatory agencies have adopted widely varies – ranging from the 1995 version to the 2013 version of the Food Code.

So what does this mean for food retailers?

The variability and the patchwork of Food Code adoption across the U.S. creates a significant challenge for retailers to have to know and comply with the requirements of each jurisdiction in which they operate.

FMI supports uniform adoption of the FDA Food Code.  Successful federal, state, local and tribal partnerships for food safety allow strong scientific standards to be used in all regulatory jurisdictions.  The benefits of adopting and implementing uniform standards have long been recognized by both industry and regulatory agencies to protect public health.  Uniform adoption of the code leads to higher compliance, more consistent training, standardized inspections and increased sharing of information by all stakeholders.  When it comes to food safety, operators and regulators of retail food establishments share a common goal to produce safe, quality food for consumers.  Through the complete adoption and implementation of consistent standards, we strengthen our ability of achieving the shared goal of having a safer food supply.

The FDA Retail Food Protection Team hosted a webinar for FMI members to learn more about what changes and updates were made to the 2017 FDA Food Code.  A recording of this webinar is available here.

For more information on Retail Food Safety visit www.fmi.org/foodsafety or contact FoodSafetyTeam@fmi.org.

Image Source:  FDA’s Report on the “Adoption of the FDA Food Code by State and Territorial Agencies Responsible for the Oversight of Restaurants and Retail Food Stores”