Florida Announces Food Code and Restaurant Inspection Updates

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the state agency that's in charge of inspecting all Florida restaurants for cleanliness and food safety, announced updates to the statewide Food Code.

The  new code, which goes into effect January 1, 2013, will improve the inspection process for restaurant operators and addresses safety concerns, such as warnings for food allergens.

The updates reflect the FDA 2009 Food Code, a 570-page,eight-chapter manual that outlines food safety for retail establishments and which is offered free to state, local, and federal jurisdictions as a guideline.

Like any good governmental manual, the FDA Food Code addresses a multitude of issues ranging from growing sprouts in a retail food establishment to employee health and personal hygiene. Currently, the state of Florida is working under the guidelines of the FDA's 2001 Food Code, which will remain in effect until December 31, 2012.

One notable update to Florida's Food Code is the new descriptions of safety and sanitation violations and the division of violations into three categories: high priority, intermediate, and basic.

High priority violations are those which could contribute directly to a food borne illness or injury and include items such as cooking, reheating, cooling and hand-washing. Intermediate violations are those which, if not addressed, could lead to risk factors that contribute to food borne illness or injury. These violations include personnel training, documentation or record keeping and labeling. Basic violations are those which are considered best practices to implement.

Right now, violations are categorized into critical and non-critical, which can earn a restaurant a bad mark for something that's not an immediate threat to the public's safety, like not having proper signage on display in the kitchen area.

Other changes in the food code include provisions for food allergen training and awareness; expanded date ranges for certain foods; and the prohibition of offering or serving raw or undercooked foods on a children's menu (so no more seared tuna or oysters on the kiddie menu).

Here's a video primer on some of the more significant changes, including an awkward mock inspection:

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