Thursday, May 17, 2012

NC Food Safety to Adopt FDA Food Code

To comply with the strict Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines on food safety, the FDA Food Code, North Carolina is expected to replace a dog-eared set of regulations it introduced almost a generation ago, in 1976. For the restaurant owner and workers the new, more stringent code means, for example, that restaurant employees who are sick will not be allowed to work and cooks will not be allowed to touch ready-to-eat food with bare hands.

Although many restaurant owners today have made a food handler certification or a food safety certification an employment requirement, much still needs to be instituted to safeguard the dining public from food-borne pathogens.

The FDA Food Code was developed by a collaboration of physicians, scientists, academics, and industry experts. It is revised every four years to include and reflect the latest knowledge on food safety. The North Carolina Division of Public Health is holding public hearings to help complete the process of adopting the stringent federal food code. It is scheduled to go into effect in North Carolina on Sept. 1.

The approach in the past involved an endless process of revising the rules and standards,” said Larry Michael, head of the state food-protection program. “This proved to be inefficient. There’s no doubt in my mind that [with the new code], we will see a reduction in food-borne illness.

The FDA Food Code concentrates on improper hot and cold holding temperatures for food, improper cooking temperatures, contaminated utensils and equipment, poor employee health and hygiene and food from unsafe sources. Safe food handling, meanwhile, got a boost with the release recently of Applied Biosystems TaqMan, a new Salmonella enteritidis (SE) detection kit used on eggs.

The kit already enjoys an “interim” approval for environmental sampling from the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP), the U.S. Department of Agriculture arm that oversees safety standards at poultry houses. Now the method can be employed to test for SE in both eggs and poultry houses, where pathogens can enter the food-supply chain early.

Life Technologies Corporation, the maker of TaqMan, will present its validation studies to the full technical committee in New Orleans in September. It expects its product to receive NPIP permanent approval then.

According to Life Technologies, the kit is unique in the industry because it is the sole polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based tool available on the market that can quickly determine the presence of SE in drag-swab samples obtained from production lines by directly targeting the pathogen's DNA. Unlike culture-based methods, which typically take over 72 hours to return results, the kit delivers results within 27 hours. It can also differentiate SE from other serogroups of D1 Salmonella.
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