January 12, 2023

FDA serves up big changes as part of 2022 Food Code

New webinar to address rules, possible compliance challenges.
Restaurant employees packing food

The 2022 Food Code states food stored, prepared, packaged, displayed, and labeled according to its current safety provisions can be donated.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently released the 2022 edition of the FDA Food Code, offering state and local authorities—and  foodservice operators and retailers—guidelines for food safety that could help reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

The Food Code, updated every four years and typically adopted by local, state and federal jurisdictions, offers the FDA’s best advice for a system of provisions that address the safety and protection of food served at restaurants, foodservice operations, and retail establishments. The code isn’t law, but it provides guidance that helps those state and local jurisdictions regulate handwashing practices, safe food preparation, food storage and display, sanitation, cooking temperatures, freezing, thawing and other essential food safety elements.

Released Dec. 28, the 2022 edition also commemorates the 30th anniversary of the report in its current form. 

One of the biggest changes is the inclusion of food donations for the first time. This new information is part of the Biden Administration’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, introduced last September at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, in which the National Restaurant Association participated. The Food Code states food stored, prepared, packaged, displayed, and labeled according to its current safety provisions can be donated.

“Food donation is something that's absolutely critical—to help feed the hungry and reduce food waste—but it’s essential we have safety parameters in place regarding donated food,” says Patrick Guzzle, the Association’s vice president of Food Science and Industry. “There is a bit more detailed information regarding food donation, which is a good thing. We support the concept of food donation as long as it’s done safely, especially for those who are receiving it.”

Four other big changes to the 2022 Food Code include:

  • Sesame is the NEW allergen. The ingredient is recognized as the 9th major food allergen. “The addition of sesame is hugely important for restaurant operators to be aware of,” Guzzle says.
  • Employee knowledge of food allergens. A provision requires employees to have knowledge of and be aware of food allergens and symptoms associated with exposure to food allergens. “This is interesting because it potentially puts the onus on employees to recognize what's happening in case there’s a need for medical assistance,” he says. “We've never seen this particular type of requirement before.”
  • Defining handwashing water temperature to be at least 85°F. “This has been debated for more than 12 years,” he says. “There’s never been a real definition of warm. This is good because it matches information from the uniform plumbing code, which specifies a range of temperatures for hot water at a sink. According to that code, 85°F is right in the middle of that range.”
  • When to allow pet dogs in outdoor dining spaces. “This could be a real challenge for restaurants—how it’s implemented and whether one restaurant is held to a different standard than a neighboring one based on where geographical lines lie,” he says. “We’d hoped the FDA would provide additional guidance, but it looks like the onus will fall on local health departments to craft policies on whether and when dogs are allowed in outdoor dining areas.”

The Association will hold a webinar on Jan. 25, detailing changes in the 2022 Food Code. According to Guzzle, it will be an opportunity for industry operators to share and collect information about the new provisions as well as share their concerns regarding the proposed requirements.

Register now for our webinar: The 2022 Food Code and You

“We want to hear what operators’ biggest concerns are, what their thoughts are about some of these changes, and find ways to better assist them when it comes to creating future guidance,” Guzzle says. “Right now, I would absolutely say sesame is a major thing to be aware of, as is having employees be aware of food allergen symptoms. Operators have to put both of those on their radar.”