Restaurants, prepared-food retailers gear up for revised rules in Conn.

Restaurants, prepared-food retailers gear up for revised rules in Conn.

Record-Journal
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STONINGTON — The state’s new food code regulations will affect local eateries beginning Oct. 1 and more regulations will be phased in by July 1, 2018.

On June 21, Connecticut adopted the 2013 Food and Drug Administration Model Food Code, which is used for regulating food retailers and restaurants. The regulations are updated every four years; 2013 is the current version. The code was established in 1993 and Connecticut was using regulations dating back to 1977, some of which were revised in 2007.

Ryan McCammon, supervisor of environmental health for Ledge Light Health District, said adopting the new code will not only update the state’s food safety rules but will make the state more consistent with Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York.

One of the major changes going into effect in October is the lowering of the temperature danger zone, in which bacteria can grow quickly. On the cold end, the temperature will be lowered from 45 degrees to 41 degrees fahrenheit, and in the hot zone the temperature will decrease from 140 degree to 135 degrees fahrenheit.

The new colder temperature will help prevent the growth of Listeria monocytogenes, which causes listeriosis, a serious infection. An estimated 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, and about 260 die from it annually, according to the Center for Disease Control.

To keep foods at 41 degrees or less, the refrigerator temperature should be set to about 34 to 38 degrees, McCammon said.

For holding hot foods, the new standard is 135 degrees because the food administration determined there was no significant bacterial growth at higher temperatures. The lower temperature was part of the 2003 federal code recommendations but Connecticut chose not to adopt this regulation until now.

The second major change is the reclassification of some food service establishments, which are separated into four groups according to how much food handling and temperature control is required.

Class I serves mostly prepackaged foods or very low-risk foods that do not require time and temperature control.

Classes II and III involve a combination of complex processes such as handling of raw ingredients, cooling, cooking and reheating for hot-holding.

Class IV requires on-site preparation of foods by special processes such as acidification, smoking or curing, or sous vide, which is a method of treating food by partial cooking followed by vacuum-sealing and chilling. Under the food administration code, Class IV facilities also serve high risk populations, such as long term care, daycare facilities and children under age five.

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.

As a result of adopting the new food code, the classification of many of Stonington’s 155 food businesses changed, McCammon said.

A bigger change will come next July when classes II, III and IV will require establishments to have someone in the role of Person In Charge and a Certified Food Protection Manager with up-to-date certifications on site. Class III and IV entities had Qualified Food Operators up until now, but they will need to recertify under the title and regulations, McCammon said.

Ledge Light will offer certification classes based on the new food code in the coming months, he said.

The food industry is in favor of consistency in the adoption of the new codes because it makes it easier to operate in multiple states.

“The big difference in the last couple of years is that the industry is behind [the new code] now because a lot of the restaurant industry does work in surrounding states,” he said. “They are promoting that Connecticut get in line with the rest of neighboring states by adopting the code.”

The new codes also reflect the latest in food research and prevention of illness, he said.

“When they do have an update, they bring in new food science, new techniques for cooking, holding, cooling foods,” he said. “Also, if they find outbreaks of things we haven’t seen before, like salmonella in peanut butter, they integrate that into the code with ways to try to prevent it from happening.”

In the coming months, the state will train a Ledge Light official in how to enforce the new code and that person will train the rest of the Ledge Light staff, McCammon said.

“A new food inspection form will also be coming out and we haven’t seen it yet,” he said. “One thing we’re telling people is we don’t have all the answers yet but we’ll keep the answers coming and keep everyone informed as soon as we get something from the state.”

For more information, contact McCammon at 860-535-5010 or rmccammon@llhd.org.

chewitt@thewesterlysun.com


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