Issue View | Council I | 2018 Biennial Meeting
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Issue Number: Council I 023
This issue was submitted for consideration at a previous biennial meeting, see issue: 2016 III-024 ; the recommended solution has been revised .
Amend Food Code - Separation of Packaged Products Displayed at Retail
Issue you would like the Conference to consider
Retailers have a desire to cross merchandise certain items for customer convenience at point of sale (e.g. packages of cheese singles displayed adjacent to modified atmosphere packages (MAP) of raw preformed hamburgers, packages of cooked bacon near packages of raw bacon). Additionally, packaged salads may contain packets of portioned salad dressing within a package of salad greens. Some jurisdictions are using the 2013 FDA Food Code Section 3-302.11 as the basis for not allowing this type of product merchandising which has resulted in inconsistent inspections between jurisdictions and an increase in the number of violations cited due to the wide range of interpretations of the Food Code.
The integrity of packaging currently used by industry is greatly improved compared to packaging of the past and provides ample protection to ensure food is not exposed to contaminants. These improvements to packaging provides greater protection against physical damage, mitigating cross-contamination concerns of juice dripping from a package containing one species of meat/poultry onto another package containing another species. Package integrity is not only a food safety concern but is a quality concern and defects are corrected immediately. The Food Code requires adequate packaging in §3-202.15 yet packaging as a barrier remains unclear due to inconsistent interpretations and inspections related to §3-302.11. Packaging that meets §3-202.15 should be acceptable as a means for separation and preventing cross contamination.
Public Health Significance
The FDA Food Code requires separation of products to protect from cross contamination. While prevention of cross contamination is critical, we are not aware of any documented foodborne illnesses from cross contamination from packaged product on display in retail stores due to contact with other packaging. In the event that packaging integrity is compromised, products are removed and the area is cleaned and sanitized. Customers prefer clean display areas and retailers are very responsive to making sure spills are remediated quickly. Based on the lack of outbreaks and illnesses linked to cross contamination of packaged products and the very low risk of commercially packaged products causing contamination, the public health impact of this provision is minimal.
Recommended Solution: The Conference recommends...
that a letter be sent to the FDA requesting the most current edition of the Food Code Section 3-302.11 be amended as follows (language to be added is underlined; language to be deleted is in strikethrough format)
A) FOOD shall be protected from cross contamination by:
(1) Except as specified in (1)(c) or (d) below, separating raw animal FOODS during storage, preparation, holding, and display from:
(a) Raw READY-TO-EAT FOOD including other raw animal FOOD such as FISH for sushi or MOLLUSCAN SHELLFISH, or other raw READY-TO-EAT FOOD such as fruits and vegetables, P and
(b) Cooked READY-TO-EAT FOOD; P
(c) Frozen, commercially processed and packaged raw animal FOOD may be stored or displayed with or above frozen, commercially processed and packaged, ready-to eat food.
(d) Adequate packaging is an acceptable means of separation as long as packaging integrity is maintained as specified under § 3-202.15. Food that is vacuum packaged, modified atmosphere packaged (MAP), or hermetically sealed to prevent the entry of microbes and other contaminants such as chemicals, physical barriers or other effective means may be displayed with or above foods packaged in the same manner.
(2) Except when combined as ingredients, separating types of raw animal FOODS from each other such as beef, FISH, lamb, pork, and POULTRY during storage, preparation, holding, and display by:
(a) Using separate EQUIPMENT for each type, Pf or
(b) Arranging each type of FOOD in EQUIPMENT so that cross contamination of one type with another is prevented, Pf and
(c) Preparing each type of FOOD at different times or in separate areas; P
(3) Cleaning EQUIPMENT and UTENSILS as specified under ¶ 4-602.11
(A) and SANITIZING as specified under § 4-703.11;
(4) Except as specified under Subparagraph 3-501.15(B)(2) and in ¶
(B) of this section, storing the FOOD in packages, covered containers, or wrappings;
(5) Cleaning HERMETICALLY SEALED CONTAINERS of FOOD of visible soil before opening;
(6) Protecting FOOD containers that are received packaged together in a case or overwrap from cuts when the case or overwrap is opened;
(7) Storing damaged, spoiled, or recalled FOOD being held in the FOOD ESTABLISHMENT as specified under § 6-404.11;
(8) Separating fruits and vegetables, before they are washed as specified under § 3-302.15 from READY-TO-EAT FOOD.
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