Model Food Code (2013 Preface Excerpts) | jgersen | August 24, 2017


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Model Food Code (2013 Preface Excerpts)

by jgersen



 History and Purpose


Public Health Service (PHS) activities in the area of food protection began at the turn of the 20th century with studies on the role of milk in the spread of diseas These studies led to the conclusion that effective disease prevention requires the application of comprehensive food sanitation measures from production to consumption. Additional studies identified and evaluated measures which would most effectively control disease, including work which led to improved processes for pasteurization.


Next, model codes were developed to assist state and local governments in initiating and maintaining effective programs for prevention of foodborne illness.  The first of these, which is now titled Grade A Pasteurized Milk Ordinance – Recommendations of the PHS/FDA, was initially published in 1924.  Subsequently, the PHS published recommended model food codes that address the various components of the retail segment of the food industry.  These code editions are listed chronologically on pp. iii and iv. Through the years all states, hundreds of local jurisdictions, and many federal agencies have adopted some edition of model food codes recommended by the PHS.


Today, FDA's purpose in maintaining an updated model food code is to assist food control jurisdictions at all levels of government by providing them with a scientifically sound technical and legal basis for regulating the retail segment of the food industry. The retail segment includes those establishments or locations in the food distribution chain where the consumer takes possession of the food.


The model Food Code is neither federal law nor federal regulation and is not preemptive.  Rather, it represents FDA's best advice for a uniform system of regulation to ensure that food at retail is safe and properly protected and presented.  Although not federal requirements (until adopted by federal bodies for use within federal jurisdictions), the model Food Code provisions are designed to be consistent with federal food laws and regulations, and are written for ease of legal adoption at all levels of government.  A list of jurisdictions that have reported to FDA their status in adopting the Food Code is available on the FDA CFSAN Web Page at: The list is self-reported and FDA has not yet evaluated whether all the adopted codes are equivalent to the model Food Code.


Providing model food codes and model code interpretations and opinions is the mechanism through which FDA, as a lead federal food control agency, promotes uniform implementation of national food regulatory policy among the several thousand federal, state, and local agencies and tribes that have primary responsibility for the regulation or oversight of retail level food operations.






PHS authority for providing assistance to state and local governments is derived from the Public Health Service Act [42 USC 243].  Section 311(a) states in part:


"... The Secretary shall ... assist states and their political subdivisions in the prevention and suppression of communicable diseases, and with respect to other public health matters, shall cooperate with and aid state and local authorities in the enforcement of their ... health regulations and shall advise the several states on matters relating to the preservation and improvement of the public health."  Responsibility for carrying out the provisions of the Act relative to food protection was delegated within the PHS to the Commissioner of Food and Drugs in 1968 [21 CFR 5.10(a)(2) and (3)]. 


Under authority of the Economy Act, June 30, 1932 as amended [31 USC 1535], FDA provides assistance to federal agencies.


Assistance provided to local, state, and federal governmental bodies is also based on FDA's authorities and responsibilities under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act [21 USC 301].




It is a shared responsibility of the food industry and the government to ensure that food provided to the consumer is safe and does not become a vehicle in a disease outbreak or in the transmission of communicable disease.  This shared responsibility extends to ensuring that consumer expectations are met and that food is unadulterated, prepared in a clean environment, and honestly presented.


Under FDA’s 2012 Mission Statement the agency is responsible for:


Protecting the public health by assuring the safety of our nation’s food supply…and for advancing the public health by helping the public get accurate, science-based information they need about foods to maintain and improve their health.


Accordingly, the provisions of the Food Code provide a system of prevention and overlapping safeguards designed to minimize foodborne illness; ensure employee health, industry manager knowledge, safe food, nontoxic and cleanable equipment, and acceptable levels of sanitation on food establishment premises; and promote fair dealings with the consumer. 






The advantages of well-written, scientifically sound, and up-to-date model codes have long been recognized by industry and government officials. 


Industry conformance with acceptable procedures and practices is far more likely where regulatory officials "speak with one voice" about what is required to protect the public health, why it is important, and which alternatives for compliance may be accepted.


Model codes provide a guide for use in establishing what is required.  They are useful to business in that they provide accepted standards that can be applied in training and quality assurance programs.  They are helpful to local, state, and federal governmental bodies that are developing or updating their own codes.


The model Food Code provides guidance on food safety, sanitation, and fair dealing that can be uniformly adopted for the retail segment of the food industry.  The document is the cumulative result of the efforts and recommendations of many contributing individuals, agencies, and organizations with years of experience using earlier model code editions.  It embraces the concept that our quality of life, state of health, and the public welfare are directly affected by how we collectively provide and protect our food.


The model Food Code provisions are consistent with, and where appropriate incorporate, federal performance standards for the same products and processes. Federal performance standards in effect define public food safety expectations for the product, usually in terms of lethality to a pathogenic microorganism of particular concern.  Use of performance standards as the measure of regulatory compliance means establishments are free to use innovative approaches in producing safe products, in lieu of adherence to traditional processing approaches, such as specified cooking times and temperatures, that achieve the same end.  Federally inspected establishments demonstrate compliance with performance standards by showing that their process adheres to an appropriately designed, validated HACCP plan.


Retail processors may be given the same opportunity as federally-regulated establishments to use innovative techniques in the production of safe foods.  Retail establishments may apply to the regulatory authority for a variance to use a specific federal food safety performance standard for a product or a process in lieu of compliance with otherwise applicable specifications in the Food Code.  However, to show compliance with the federal performance standard, the retail processor must, like a federally inspected establishment, show that processing controls are in place to ensure that the standard is being met.  Thus, a request for a variance based on a federal performance standard must be supported by a validated HACCP plan with record keeping and documented verification being made available to the regulatory authority.


Annotated Text Information

August 25, 2017

Model Food Code (2013 Excerpts)

Model Food Code (2013 Preface Excerpts)

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Jacob Gersen

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