Office of Policy, Program Development and Evaluation
Meat and Poultry Advisory Committee Staff
Food Code by Adopting Key Food Safety Provisions as|
Federal Performance Standards
A key goal of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is to create a seamless food safety system that uses the resources of all levels of government. Federal, State and local agencies need to work together to ensure safe food, and reliance on the Food Code is one of the ways to do so.
The Food Code is a reference document for regulatory agencies responsible for overseeing food safety at retail outlets, such as restaurants and grocery stores, and at institutions, such as nursing homes and child care centers. It is neither Federal law nor Federal regulation. Rather, it is a guidance document establishes key public health interventions to protect consumer health. It also addresses controls for risk factors that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified as contributors to outbreaks that have been investigated and confirmed.
The guidance in the Food Code often is presented in a much more prescriptive form than in Federal regulations. For example, the performance standard (9.CFR.416.2 (c)) for lighting in the new FSIS sanitation regulations states that it must be of good quality and of sufficient intensity to ensure that sanitary conditions are maintained, and that product is not adulterated. The corresponding section on lighting in the Food Code (6-303.11) provides a specific requirement about light intensity (i.e., at least 540 lux at a surface where a food employee is working with food or working with utensils or equipment such as knives, slicers, grinders, or saws where employee safety is a factor).
FSIS has taken steps over the past several years to improve its working relationships with Federal, State, and local public health and food safety agencies and to strengthen State meat and poultry inspection systems. FSIS has also sought to improve food safety once meat and poultry products leave slaughter and processing plants. One way to improve food safety as product moves from the plant to the consumer is through state adoption and implementation of the Food Code. The issue that FSIS seeks advice on is how best to position itself to encourage this outcome.
One approach was suggested by the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO). A resolution from AFDO requested that FSIS incorporate the Food Code, including standards for retail meat and poultry processing, into the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to facilitate adoption of uniform retail standards by the States. Some state officials believe that they would have a much simpler time of adopting and updating the Food Code if it were part of the CFR. In those States that have laws that incorporate the CFR by reference, adoption would be much easier, if not automatic. FSIS has responded that it would consider this suggestion with regard to the portions of the Food Code applicable to products it oversees and discuss this with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
FSIS has come to believe, however, that it would be expensive and time-consuming to include the Food Code in the CFR, and that it would be very difficult to keep the CFR up-to-date with changes in the Food Code. Therefore, FSIS is not inclined to adopt this approach. FSIS believes that there is a better and more efficient way to use its regulations to support state adoption of the Food Code.
Both the meat and the poultry acts give the Secretary authority to prescribe by regulation the conditions under which covered meat and poultry products are to be stored or otherwise handled after they leave the plant in order to ensure that they are not adulterated or misbranded when delivered to consumers. Thus, the statutes provide FSIS with the authority to set performance standards for handling and storage in order to ensure that products remain unadulterated as they move through commerce. FSIS does not intend to use this authority to establish command-and-control requirements. Rather, it intends to set performance standards that would, for example, require not exceeding a certain level of pathogen growth during transportation or storage or provide that there is to be no pathogen growth in meat and poultry products under the conditions in which they are displayed at retail.
With performance standards, businesses would be allowed the flexibility to meet these standards in ways that make sense for them. It is the Agency’s intent whenever possible to set standards that can be met by adherence to the Food Code. Thus, States would be free to adopt without fear of conflict with Federal law and with the knowledge that the Food Code reflects their knowledge and experience as they presented it through the Conference on Food Protection.
Thus, FSIS sees the opportunity to create a complementary, seamless food safety system in which performance standards provide a framework within which more specific requirements are provided through State adherence to the Food Code. This approach will help to bring consistency and coherence to the food safety system – which is a primary goal.
In achieving this goal, the objectives are:
Questions for the Advisory Committee
Considering the intent of FSIS to use the establishment of performance standards to reinforce the Food Code, the following questions are being submitted to the Advisory Committee:
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