The Connecticut (CT) General Assembly passed the adoption of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code into law in 2018; and it finally went into full effect on the 17th of February.
The law requires some changes for both the food service establishments (FSEs) operating in the state, and for the inspection and permitting processes conducted by the local health departments charged with regulation. For Lyme and Old Lyme, this latter is, of course, Ledge Light Health District (LLHD) along with seven other communities in Southeast CT.
In this essay, I review some of the key changes that occurred with the full enactment of this Food Code.
The U. S. FDA publishes the Food Code as a model to assist local health departments develop or update their own food safety rules; and thus ensure that local rules have a sound scientific basis, reflect best practices, and are consistent with national food regulatory policy.
The FDA Food Code was first issued in 1993, and updated and re-issued every two years until 2001; but then moving to a four-year interval.
Implementation did not alter the major components of CT’s food safety rules and best practices, since CT’s regulations were generally consistent with the FDA’s. The rules still stress hand-washing along with proper cleaning and sanitizing of food preparation surfaces and equipment.
However, there are changes in temperature standards for food preparation and storage, the classification of food service establishments, and the methods for scoring and documenting inspections.
The former CT Code required that cold foods be held at 45 degrees F. or lower, and hot foods held at 140 degrees F. or higher. The FDA Code requires 41 degrees F. or lower and 135 degrees F. or higher, respectively.
Perhaps more important are the changes in classification of FSEs. The class affects the frequency of required inspection and the qualifications required for on-site supervisory staff. I review the classification system under the newly enacted definitions in the following. Note that this is at a high level and the examples listed for each class are only for illustration and not all-inclusive.
Class 1 establishments provide hot or cold beverages and/or commercially prepackaged foods that are not “TCS” (i.e., foods that do not “require time and temperature control for safety”); and limited preparation or heating of commercially packaged precooked foods. This includes coffee and donut shops, and convenience stores. (inspected annually.)
Class 2 establishments are “cook and serve” operations that offer a limited menu of “TCS” food prepared or cooked and served almost immediately. This includes fast food shops like McDonalds and Burger King. (inspected twice/year.)
Class 3 establishments are “cook and serve” operations that offer an extensive menu of “TCS food requiring complex preparation, including, but not limited to, handling of raw ingredients. This includes full-service restaurants, diners, delicatessens, and supermarket food services serving pizza and sushi. (inspected three times/ year.)
Class 4 establishments serve a population that is highly susceptible to food-borne illnesses, and includes daycare centers, convalescent and nursing homes, and hospitals. (inspected four times/ year.)
All Class 2, 3, and 4 establishments are required to have a Person In Charge (PIC), who has qualified as a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) through a CT Department of Public Health (DPH)-approved testing organization and is fully onsite during peak hours of operation. The PIC can appoint an alternate, who does not need to pass an exam, but is only onsite during off peak hours when limited/no food preparation is occurring.
New inspection forms are used and no longer yield a numerical score that is posted in the establishment; but rather, a simple pass or fail. Any cited violations are categorized as “Priority”, “Priority Foundation”, and “Core”; and align with the risk of that violation as it relates to foodborne illness, and the time allowed for corrective action
Further, other changes include date-labeling of foods and notification of allergens on menus, both of which were not previously well-enforced. Product date marking will be required to ensure all refrigerated food is consumed within seven days.
My sources include:
- Food Protection Program-related documents on both the CT DPH and LLHD websites.
- Communications to affected food service establishments regarding the FDA Food Code from LLHD and several other CT Health Departments/Districts.
- Abundant Q&A with Ms. Katie Baldwin, RS (i.e., a registered sanitarian), the Supervisor of Regulated Facilities, and the local subject matter expert regarding the Food Code at LLHD.
- The U.S. “FDA Releases 2017 Food Code” dated 02/09/2018.
- The U.S. FDA “Benefits Associated with Complete Adoption and Implementation of the FDA Food Code” dated 06/11/2020
Author’s Comments: After the CT General Assembly passed the adoption of the FDA Food Code into law in 2018, LLHD began implementation of some of the new requirements with the FSEs in their catchment area — well in advance of the eventual Feb. 17 effective date. These included:
- Updated food establishment risk classification categories.
- Changes to hot and cold temperature requirements.
- Requirement to employ Food Protection Managers in Class 2, 3, and 4 FSEs.
Consequently, there was no difficult transition in February; as they were already operating under the new regulations.
Finally, there are executive level staff changes at LLHD in the offing this summer.
LLHD Health Director, Stephen Mansfield announced last July that he will retire in 2023; his final day on the job will be July 6, 2023. He has been with the organization for 25 years, the last eight as Director.
His replacement, Ms. Jennifer Muggeo, recently marked 18 years of service with LLHD. Mr. Mansfield expanded her role several months ago from overseeing financial operations to the Deputy Director position.
I have been on LLHD’s Board of Directors for the past several years and am comfortable saying that he leaves a very strong organization, which very visibly demonstrated its worth to SE CT during the recent pandemic.
I observed an organization with sound financials, which focused on staff development and opportunity; and held the respect of CT’s broader public health community. I had interactions with a few members of the more clinical staff, and felt their clear and prideful commitment to both the organization and the public’s health.
About the author: Tom Gotowka is a resident of Old Lyme, whose entire adult career has been in healthcare. He will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK. A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.
Emily E Snow says
Thank you Tom for keeping your readers informed on important matters