State adopes new food handling rules

A new food code approved by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services for restaurants went into effect in Haywood County and the rest of the state on September 1. The new food code enforces safe food handling and is exected to help reduce the transmission of food borne illnesses.

Under the new rules, employees must avoid handling ready-to-eat food such as sandwich & salad ingredients, bread & desserts, with their bare hands and all restaurants must have a certified food protection manager on duty during hours of operation.  Restaurant owners also must establish employee health policies to ensure that an ill employee who has the potential to contaminate food is not involved in the preparation or serving of food. Managers are required to report to the Health Department when there is a sick employee with certain illnesses such as Hepatitis A. If an employee is ill due to certain types of infections, such as Salmonella, they will be excluded from work until they are cleared by the Health Department.

Under the new rules, restaurant rating systems have also changed. Although sanitation rating cards showing the grade and score will continue to be posted in the restaurant, restaurants will no longer earn bonus points for completing voluntary food safety training since it will now be required. 

Food trucks and pushcarts are also subject to the new food code rules and will be required to post sanitation ratings. Following are some key provisions of the new North Carolina Food Code:

  • Each food establishment is now required to have staff in charge pass an American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited exam to demonstrate knowledge of food protection. This requirement will be phased in and become effective January 1, 2014.
  • Each food establishment will be required to develop and adhere to an employee health policy to prevent and control the transmission of illnesses.
  • Food establishments’ employees can no longer handle ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands.
  • Food establishments are required to date-mark opened, prepared ready-to-eat food.
  • Food establishments will be required to decrease the temperature of refrigerated foods from 45 to 41 degrees Farenheit. There will be a six-year grace period to accommodate the purchase of new refrigerators to adjust to this rule.

For questions or more information, please contact Haywood County Environmental Health at 828.452.6682. Following are copies of the new food rules and the N.C. Food Code Manual: