STONINGTON — Food purveyors in Connecticut will have until Jan. 1, 2019, to meet the requirements of the updated Food and Drug Administration Food Code, which was to go into effect July 1.
The announcement was made in a May 11 memo from Tracey Weeks, food protection program coordinator for the Connecticut Department of Health, to “directors of health, certified food inspectors and interested parties.”
The updated food code includes new requirements and modifications of regulations dealing with the temperature and time that foods are held; and for licensing and registration of food establishments, and certification of food protection managers.
In the Town of Stonington, Ledge Light Health District is responsible for inspecting food-service establishments. The town joined the district on May 1, 2017.
The district’s policies and state codes supersede town ordinances, said Stephen Mansfield, director of health for the Ledge Light Health District.
“At the town special meeting when the town voted to join Ledge Light Health District, the opinion of the counsel at the meeting was when any ordinance is inconsistent with our regulations, policies and procedures, ours would take precedence, ours supersedes the town’s ordinances,” he said.
According to the FDA code, food-service establishments are separated into four groups according to how much food handling and temperature control is required. Class 1 serves mostly prepackaged foods or very low-risk foods that do not require time and temperature control. Classes 2 and 3 involve handling of raw ingredients, cooling, cooking and reheating. Class 4 comprises on-site preparations of foods by special processes such as acidification, smoking or curing. The number of times a year a food establishment is inspected is determined by its class number — for example, Class I is inspected once a year and Class IV is checked four times a year.
Among the requirements of the new FDA code, Class 3 and Class 4 restaurants are mandated to recertify their qualified food operators. Under the old code, certification was considered lifelong, even though it had an expiration date, Mansfield said.
“Under the old code it was good for life. Under the FDA food code they recognize the expiration date of those certificates,” he said. “Under the new code, the certification expires every five years, and that’s important now because people who have expired certificates are now going to have to go back and take the one-day course again.”
Mansfield said Ledge Light used to offer qualified food operator certification classes quarterly and then increased the frequency to every other month. But with the new requirements, even more classes have been added.
“Now we moved it to every month and we secured a much larger facility because so many restaurants out there now have to go through this training again,” he said. “It’s a burden on our inspectors because they’re certified teachers to teach these courses but also someone who’s been a food manager for 15 years all of a sudden has to go back and take the class again. It’s only a one-day class but it’s burdensome.”
Mansfield said the extension to Jan. 1, 2019, was a consensus among health departments across the state, who agreed that implementation of the necessary changes would be very difficult to do by July 1, and the Department of Health supported legislation that would extend the date.