In light of recent natural disasters in Texas, namely Hurricane Harvey and other recent flooding events, a major victory was achieved with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to improve the latest FDA Food Code. The restaurant industry was able to achieve some key wins in the new FDA Food Code that include setting standards to enable restaurants to safely serve their guests when certain emergencies or disasters create imminent health hazards within a community. The FDA Food Code is not law, but many state and local governments will adopt and implement the 2017 Code’s health and food-safety regulations.
The National Restaurant Association (NRA) made its case for the changes during the last Conference for Food Protection, arguing that restaurants should have the ability to continue operating during certain emergencies if they proactively develop a plan that will protect their customers. The FDA ultimately agreed with this position, and section 8-404.11 of the 2017 FDA Food Code reflects those changes. According to that provision, restaurants can continue serving customers during certain emergencies if they do the following: 1) develop an emergency operating plan and have it approved by the appropriate regulatory authority, 2) follow the approved plan upon the onset of the imminent hazard, and 3) inform the regulatory authority that they have done so.
This is a significant victory for our industry and the local communities our members serve.