The state is the only one in the nation that has not adopted the Food and Drug Administration’s Model Food Code, instead opting to annually update its own food safety laws every year as needed, said Larry Michael, head of North Carolina’s Division of Public Health.
Michael has been gathering input at public hearings and is scheduled to present findings to the Commission for Public Health at its May 16 meeting. He said the state legislature gave the commission authority to adopt the FDA code without legislative action, and he expects adoption on May 16.
One provision of the code requires buyers of fresh-cut leafy greens to ensure they are at 41 degrees when they receive them. Michael said current North Carolina law does not specify a temperature for fresh-cut leafy greens.
If the code is adopted, grocery stores, restaurants, school foodservice operations and other receivers of fresh-cut leafy greens could receive two demerit points if they accept warm greens. However, that would only happen if a state inspector was present at delivery time and determined the greens were warmer than 41 degrees.
Michael said the code leaves it up to the receivers to enforce the temperature requirement. He also said that unless a receiver already has a very low inspection score, the two points off would likely not effect their operations.
Some growers are opposed to the requirement, saying is an unnecessary burden, especially if the greens are grown and cut in close proximity to receivers. Michael said the state division has asked food safety researchers at the University of North Carolina to look into the issue and make a recommendation.
Tim Greene, director of marketing and sales for Hollar & Greene Produce Inc., Boone, N.C., said he doesn’t believe adoption of the FDA food code would make food any safer. Greene doubts the state’s ability to enforce the provisions of the code and said buyers already require appropriate temperatures.
“Wal-Mart already requires 42 degrees,” Greene said. “(The FDA code) won’t make any difference at all unless they enforce it, and they don’t have any way to do that.”