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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
January 16, 2007

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160


 
New Jersey Overhauls Food Safety Code


 

New Jersey has adopted the most sweeping changes to its food safety code since the 1970s, bringing the state in line with national standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D. announced today.

“We’ve updated the food safety rules over the years, but this is the first complete overhaul we’ve conducted in three decades,” Dr. Jacobs said. “Consumers will enjoy better protection because these rules reflect better scientific understanding of how to prevent food-borne illnesses.”

About 50,000 New Jersey food stores, restaurants, banquet facilities, caterers and other retail food establishments are governed by the rules published January 2 in the New Jersey Register, the state’s journal of rulemaking.

Sanitation in Retail Food Establishments and Food and Beverage Vending Machines, chapter 24 of the New Jersey Administrative Code, is modeled on the FDA Food Codes of 2001 and 2005. The state’s new rules are more detailed than older regulations, making requirements clear and specific.

One example of the new and more detailed rules is the hand washing requirements for food workers. The rule gives specific instructions on exactly how to wash and how long to wash; when to wash, including after handling raw animal products; and how to dry hands safely.

At the same time, the rules provide food establishments some flexibility in the methods they use to meet certain food safety standards.  For example, they can meet public health standards by cooking certain foods to a lower temperature if the food is held at that temperature for a longer time.  Other rule highlights are as follows:

  • Any person in charge of a higher-risk food establishment must pass a nationally accredited food safety examination by January 2, 2010.
  • Retail food establishments have been classified according to risk level based on the complexity of their food handling and cooking procedures.
  • In accordance with new food safety research findings, cold foods being refrigerated must now be held at a lower temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit.  Hot foods being held on a steam table may now be held at a lower temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods has been restricted and food workers must use gloves, utensils or deli tissue to handle these foods.

“Last year, the nation experienced two serious outbreaks of food-borne E. coli illness.  These and other incidents underscore the critical importance of a safe food supply and safe food-handling practices,” said Commissioner Jacobs.  “While these new regulations were not prompted by these outbreaks, they give us the up-to-date tools we need to continue protecting public health.”

In addition, the departments of Health and Senior Services and Agriculture last month announced formation of a Produce Safety Task Force.  Its purpose is to protect New Jersey consumers and help local producers adapt to new produce-safety standards in the wake of the recent food-borne illness outbreaks.

The new food safety rules announced today represent a major change both for the regulated community and health inspectors.  The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has already held several briefing sessions on the rules for local health officials, including a Retail Food Protection Summit in Cherry Hill in September.  Another summit will be held March 8 in New Brunswick. 

DHSS has held two conference calls for health officials, and will hold more calls in the weeks ahead to discuss rule implementation issues.  Other training sessions are being scheduled for health officials and food industry representatives.  Additional training sessions will be provided by DHSS upon request.

“We recommend that local health departments thoroughly review the new rules and become familiar with them before conducting inspections,” said Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, State Epidemiologist and Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Services.  “Although the rules are effective immediately, we encourage health inspectors to help educate retail food establishments and give them ample time to comply with the rules before considering enforcement actions.”

The rules are available on the DHSS web site at:

http://nj.gov/health/eoh/documents/chapter24_effective_1207.pdf.

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