Food Code Revisions Effective May 1, 2013

Food Code Revisions Effective May 1, 2013

Apr 23, 2013

For more information, contact Kim Papich, SRHD Public Information Officer (509) 324-1539 

SPOKANE, Wash. - April 23, 2013 -  Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD), under direction of its board, recently adopted the newly-revised Washington State Retail Food Code. The updated rules are based on the 2009 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code and will take effect May 1, 2013.
Major changes to the food safety rules can be found at Briefly, they include:

  • Cut leafy greens and cut tomatoes will become potentially hazardous foods and will be required to be kept at 41°F or below.
  • The person in charge of a food establishment will now be required to ask employees to whom a job offer is made if they are experiencing or have recently experienced symptoms of foodborne illness such as diarrhea or vomiting.
    • If the conditional employee is experiencing these symptoms they cannot become a food employee until they meet the health conditions outlined in other parts of the rule.
  • The rule will specify that washing produce means the produce is “thoroughly rinsed under running water.”
  • There will be new rules for restaurants that partially cook and then cool food for complete cooking later, which is called “noncontinuous cooking.”
  • There will be new requirements for restaurants that prepare food using cook chill or sous vide methods.
  • The definition of service animal will match the definition in state law, which will mean dogs are the only animal that can be a service animal.

Ultimately, these revisions help to protect public health by further preventing foodborne illness.
SRHD is one of 34 local public health agencies adopting the code in partnership with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).  SRHD’s Food Safety program adheres to the code while inspecting and permitting over 2,350 permanent retail food establishments and nearly 300 temporary food establishments in Spokane County each year. The code is also the foundation for the health district in issuing over  21,000 food service worker permits annually. 
In discussing proposed changes to the code, which was last revised in 2005, DOH used a workgroup process, including representatives from the restaurant industry, local health departments, the grocery industry, the public, and affected state agencies. The workgroup was tasked with discussing all the changes made to the FDA Food Code since the last state food rule revision, as well as changes suggested by the food service industry, the public and local health officials.
The final proposed rules were presented by DOH to the Washington State Board of Health at a formal public hearing on Oct. 10, 2012. The State Board of Health received testimony from the Washington Restaurant Association, the Washington Food Industry Association and local health jurisdictions. All were in favor of the proposed rules and the State Board of Health adopted them with an effective date of May 1, 2013. 
Over the past six months, SRHD Food Safety program staff notified food establishments of the code changes during its inspections, as well as including an informational flyer with permit renewal notices and meeting with community partners including the Washington Restaurant Association – Spokane Chapter. This culminated in a formal presentation to Spokane’s board of health on Feb. 28, 2013, and its subsequent adoption of the revised code on March 28, 2013.
Again, a summary of the most significant changes, as well as a link to the new rule, is available at SRHD’s web site also offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane County a safer and healthier community. Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips. You can also follow us on Twitter @spokanehealth.