Pennsylvania's restaurants, stadiums, bars and supermarkets are adjusting to revised food safety requirements

Pennsylvania's restaurants, stadiums, bars and supermarkets are adjusting to revised food safety requirements in the Pennsylvania Food Code, according to a specialist in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. And she explains that consumers may see changes, too.

Laurie Williams, a food safety specialist in the food science department who develops and delivers training for extension educators, says the changes bring the state's laws up to the standards long recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"The state code was amended to keep up with changing food science knowledge; it's now modeled after the 2001 FDA Food Code and the 2003 supplement," Williams says. "Our country has no national food law, but the FDA strongly recommends these guidelines, and more states are adopting them."

The new code gives industry more detailed guidelines by specifying safe holding temperatures and more explicit requirements for food preparation, storage and handling. For consumers, the most visible change will be the consumer advisory that food establishments are now required to display when serving any raw or undercooked foods. Williams says such foods pose an elevated risk to young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

"For example, when Caesar salad is made with raw eggs, there's a risk of salmonella," she says. "Things that are typically raw or undercooked must be identified by a sign, an asterisk on a menu or a brochure on the supermarket's prepared-food counter.

"Some places may already have the advisories because their companies have outlets in other states where it's already mandated, so they had it on their menu already. But now it's required in Pennsylvania, so consumers should be seeing them more and more."

Other major changes that the code will be introducing include:

  • Revised Hot and Cold Holding Temperatures. The upper limit for holding hot foods for extended periods was reduced to 135 degrees from 140. The cold holding temperature was reduced from 45 degrees to 41 degrees.
  • Required Food Personnel Supervisor. A designated supervisor must be on-site whenever the facility is in operation.
  • Food Service Employee Health Monitoring. Food handlers are required to report any illness of Hepatitis A, E. coli: 01757, Salmonella Typhi and Shigellosis to their supervisors when diagnosed. "If they're sick with gastrointestinal illness, diarrhea, fever or a sore throat, they have to report that, also," Williams says.
  • Prohibition on Bare-Handed Food Handling. All bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food is completely prohibited.

All food establishments as defined by the Department of Agriculture will be affected by these changes. "The regulations are based on science, so they change as our understanding changes," Williams explains. "We produce so much food in Pennsylvania that it's important for food safety to be at the front of mind."

Still more changes are on the way for the state's food handlers and processors. By July 1, one supervisory employee per food establishment must be certified in food safety and sanitation to be in compliance with the State's Food Employee Certification Act. To ease the transition, Penn State is offering SuperSafeMark comprehensive food safety training for all levels of supermarket or grocery store employees, and ServSafe Training, a nationally recognized certification program for restaurants and other food preparers.

For more information about training courses, contact Laurie Williams at (814) 865-0640 or by e-mail at [email protected], or visit http://foodsafety.cas.psu.edu/publicCert.html

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