New Food Safety Rules Keep Consumers Safe at the Table

December 2, 2015

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has rolled out a new set of food safety rules that will benefit restaurant patrons with food-related allergies and pet owners who want to enjoy a meal in the company of their canine friends.

The new food safety rules are based on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) 2013 Food Code and provide a consistent set of operating standards for food service providers.

Adoption of these new rules puts Georgia in a small group of states that have implemented the latest FDA code, further protecting consumers, businesses and even schools.

“The new food safety rules provide the minimal controls necessary to ensure public health protection,” said Chris Rustin, DrPH, MS, REHS, director of DPH’s Environmental Health Section. “Simply put, the rules were designed to control the risk factors for foodborne illness. When followed properly, we anticipate seeing an overall reduction in foodborne-related illness in Georgia.”

Under the new food rules, FDA provides expanded food handling guidance, training and service compliance standards for a restaurant’s front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house operations. Some of the notable changes patrons can expect to see include:

When serving cut leafy greens, restaurants are required to ensure the greens are kept at a specific temperature for a set amount of time to eliminate the growth of bacteria. Once cut or shredded, restaurants must refrigerate, cook or discard the greens within four to six hours.

Food safety training is now required for all employees who are hired to take orders and serve food to patrons. Also, servers and waiters must be trained to inform patrons which foods on the menu contain allergens that may cause an allergic reaction such as peanuts, eggs and wheat.

Non-service dogs are now allowed in designated outdoor dining sections, but must remain leashed at all times. Dog owners must enter the facility through an outdoor patio area to avoid waking through the restaurant with the pet. Also, waiters and servers are not allowed to pet or touch the dog. All restaurants that accommodate pets are required to have procedures for immediately cleaning up after the dog in the event of an accident or dog waste.

Cameron Wiggins, MPH, director of the Food Service Program in the Environmental Health Section, says that the 2015 Georgia Food Service Rules and Regulations are based on the most current science.

“The update allows Georgia to remain current with the most recent version of the FDA Food Code which provides a sound scientific, technical and legal basis for regulating the food service industry,” said Wiggins.  “Georgia uses the FDA Food Code as a model to develop or update food safety rules to be consistent with national food regulatory policy.”

Adopting new rules took a great deal of collaboration and partnership. Wiggins’ team partnered with the district and county environmental health staff and the Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) to review drafts of the new regulations. The teams also secured input from the public prior to adopting the rules.

Additionally, extensive training opportunities and webinars were organized by the Food Service Program and GRA for district and county environmental health specialists to ensure the rules would be maintained statewide.

“This was a great opportunity to share our message with our environmental health specialists and regulated community to ensure that each group views food safety as a shared responsibility,” said Rustin.

DPH developed outreach materials outlining the major changes within the food safety rules to be distributed within Georgia’s 159 counties. The information is also available on DPH’s website so that establishments throughout Georgia can become familiar with the changes.

Consumers and restaurant owners can learn more about the new food safety rules on the Environmental Health Section’s Food Service webpage. 

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