The revised Minnesota Food Code (officially Minnesota Administrative Rules Chapter 4626) finally cleared the required hurdles of committees, revisers, notices, public hearings, administrative judges, etc., and is effective January 1, 2019. The process to revise the code—and my involvement with it—began sometime in 2005. Along this 13-year path, I came to realize how difficult and complicated it is navigate Minnesota rules and regulations, and also how happy I am to have chosen a career in our industry versus one in government. I am grateful that this code was the result of a collaborative process, with all affected parties (foodservice operators, manufacturers, food scientists, instructors and regulators) involved.
The Minnesota Food Code we have been operating under was adopted in 1998 and was based on 1995 science. There have been quite a few advancements in food science and food safety in that nearly quarter of a century. Our industry has changed substantially as well, with new foods and sources, equipment, and types of service models.
Our new food code not only recognizes many of these changes, but also brings us in line with the current Food & Drug Administration’s Model Code and approved food safety courses like ServSafe. For operators and regulators, the standards and expectations should be less confusing. For multi-state operations, it will bring us in line with most other states’ food codes. The most important thing, though, is that the focus is much more on aspects that directly impact food safety and less on "floors, walls and ceilings," which should lead to a higher level of food safety for our customers.
The full new food code will be available online through the Office of the Revisor of Statutes (the official publisher of Minnesota statutes, laws and rules) right around January 1. In the meantime, it can be accessed at: www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/food/code/fcroughdrft.pdf. Please note that even though the link calls it the "rough draft," it is the approved and final version. Printed copies are expected to be available for sale through the Minnesota’s Bookstore (www.mnbookstore.com/) in early February.
As operators, what do we need to know about what’s changing? Since the new rules bring us in line with the FDA Model Code, those of us who are Certified Food Managers won’t be surprised by many of the changes (other than we will now be called Certified Food Protection Managers). Besides CFM becoming CFPM, there are a couple of other basic terminology changes like Critical/Non-Critical categories to Priority 1, 2 and 3 (with Priority 1 essentially replacing Critical) and Potentially Hazardous Food to TCS (Temperature Controlled for Safety). Cut leafy greens and tomatoes have been added to the list of TCS foods. Since inspection reports are open to the public (and news organizations), eliminating the terminology "critical violation" is a welcome change.
Other positive changes include the removal of date marking for certain types of foods, the lowering of the temperature for hot holding of food to 135° F (which will improve food quality), extending the amount of time food can be safely held outside of refrigeration and, as a result of collaboration with chefs, establishing an approved process for non-continuous cooking. The previous code required all equipment be NSF certified; now, only certain pieces of equipment must be NSF, which should lower some of our equipment costs.
The certification expectations will now be more uniform. CFMs have not been required for food trucks and some temporary food stands. Now these facilities (based on their menu and risk category) will be required to employ a full-time CFPM. The new code prohibits bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food, has rules restricting employees with wounds and certain illness symptoms, requires establishments to inform their customers about the increased risks of eating raw or undercooked food, and mandates the use of a device to measure the actual surface temperature with hot water dish machines.
For information on these and other significant changes, see 20 Questions: The Major Changes of Concern to the Minnesota Food Code, available online at: www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/food/code/2009revision/20qstnchge.pdf.
A training video on YouTube from the Food Safety Partnership also provides helpful information about the major changes. Search "Food Safety Partnership: Food Code Training" on YouTube to view it.
Questions about the new food code should be directed to your delegated agency or MDH sanitarian.
A note from the Minnesota Restaurant Association: The MRA ensures the industry’s voice is represented and heard on a variety of issues at the local and state levels. We are greatly appreciative to Ken Schelper for his diligent efforts over many years in helping shape the revised food code on behalf of our organization and the thousands of restaurants throughout Minnesota.
The ServSafe food manager certification mentioned in this article is available through the MRA/Hospitality Minnesota. Upcoming class dates are: January 8 and February 5 in Vadnais Heights; March 14 in Bloomington; March 26 in Eagan; and March 27 in St. Cloud. Online instruction is also available. Learn more at www.hospitalitymn.org/food-manager-certification.html.
About the author: Ken Schelper retired as a vice president of Davanni’s, after a 37-year career, but remains active in the industry. He still serves as a consultant and represents Davanni’s on the Minnesota Restaurant Association Board of Directors and on the Steering Committee for the Food Safety Partnership. Ken served on the Hospitality Minnesota Board for 10 years and has been a director of the Minnesota Restaurant Association for 23 years, serving as its president in 2001. Throughout his career, he has been a respected voice on food safety in Minnesota. In addition to the Food Safety Partnership, he has represented Davanni’s, the Restaurant Association and Minnesota’s foodservice industry on the Governor’s Food Safety Taskforce, Inter-Agency Review Council, and most recently as chairperson of the Rules Advisory Committee on the Minnesota Food Code.