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National Restaurant Association - NRA gets ready for food-safety code update

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NRA gets ready for food-safety code update

As the Food and Drug Administration gears up to write the next version of its Model Food Code, the restaurant industry is gearing up to make a difference on critical food-safety regulations affecting the restaurant industry.

FDA releases an all-new edition of its Food Code every four years. The Code is not law, but guides more than 3,000 state and local jurisdictions in setting food-safety and sanitation regulations for foodservice operators, grocery stores and other institutions such as nursing homes. Local and state regulators use the FDA Food Code as a model to develop of update their own food-safety rules. Most states adopt the FDA Food Code in whole or in part.

With the next full edition of the Food Code set for release in 2013, restaurant food-safety experts are already at work to recommend changes to the FDA aimed at ensuring the Code provides a scientifically sound technical and legal basis for regulating restaurants.

The National Restaurant Association recently submitted four hot issues for debate at the upcoming Conference for Food Protection. The CFP, to be held April 13 to 18 in Indianapolis, brings together hundreds of food-safety experts -- from the food industry, regulatory bodies, academia, and consumer organizations, among others -- to discuss and recommend changes to the Food Code. While the FDA is not required to accept the CFP's recommended changes, the agency heavily relies on CFP's recommendations in writing the next version of the Code.

Among the technical topics that the NRA is weighing in on at this year's Conference for Food Protection:

-- Expand the use of "time only" as a public health control for keeping potentially hazardous foods safe.

-- Include the voluntary "Foodborne Illness Response Guideline for the Food Industry" developed by the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR) into the FDA Food Code. "The CIFOR guideline and its tools provide valuable information for industry and the regulatory community in the event of a foodborne disease outbreak," says Christopher Melchert, senior manager, food safety and quality assurance, National Restaurant Association.

-- Ask the FDA to develop a database management tool that will help regulatory officials enter and analyze health-inspection results -- and give restaurateurs and other retail establishment owners access to these results to enhance the effectiveness of their food-safety programs.

-- Update and clarify previous FDA guidance on "durable" versus "non-durable" food packaging, to ensure that foods served in non-durable packaging in a foodservice establishment do not come under labeling requirements that were meant for durable packages from a food-processing plant.

The NRA will make its case on these four important issues at the April Conference for Food Protection.

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