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FDA Food Code

Jim Mann's picture

U. S. Department of Health and Human Services

Public Health Service Food and Drug Administration


The U. S. Food and Drug Administration publishes the Food Code , a model that assists food control jurisdictions at all levels of government by providing them with a scientifically sound technical and legal basis for regulating the retail and food service segment of the industry. Local, state, tribal, and federal regulators use the FDA Food Code as a model to develop or update their own food safety rules and to be consistent with national food regulatory policy.

It also serves as a reference of best practices for the retail and food service industries (restaurants and grocery stores and institutions such as nursing homes) on how to prevent foodborne illness. Many of the over 1 million retail and food service establishments apply Food Code provisions to their own operations.

Between 1993 and 2001, the Food Code was issued in its current format, every two years. With the support of the Conference for Food Protection, FDA has decided to move to a four-year interval between complete Food Code revisions. The next complete revision of the Food Code will be published in 2005. During the 4-year interim period, a Food Code Supplement that updates, modifies, or clarifies certain provisions is being made available.

The changes contained in the Supplement reflect the current science and emerging food safety issues, and imminent health hazards related to food safety allowing the most current food safety provisions to be available for agencies planning to initiate rule-making activities prior to 2005. In addition, this Supplement gives other users of the Food Code -- such as educators, trainers, and the food service, retail food, and vending industries -- up-to-date information of how to best mitigate risk factors that contribute to foodborne illness.

This Supplement addresses recommendations made by the 2002 Conference for Food Protection with which the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) concur. It carries the same weight as the Food Code .

Food Code Adoption Status
State/Territory Adoption Status (August 2003)

2001 Food Code
Mississippi, Wyoming, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Puerto Rico have adopted the 2001 Food Code, representing 3.1% of the US population.

1999 Food Code
Twenty-one States/Territories

The 2001 Model Food Code


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are pleased to release the 2001 edition of the Food Code. As in the past, this edition of the Food Code provides practical, science-based guidance and manageable, enforceable provisions for mitigating risk factors known to cause foodborne illness. The Code is a reference document for regulatory agencies that oversee food safety in food service establishments, retail food stores, other food establishments at the retail level, and institutions, such as nursing homes and child care centers. Food safety is a top priority for DHHS and USDA, and we strongly endorse and encourage adoption of the Code.

Foodborne Illness Estimates, Risk Factors

Foodborne illness in the United States is a major cause of personal distress, preventable death, and avoidable economic burden. Meade et. al. (1999) estimated that foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year.

For many victims, foodborne illness results only in discomfort or lost time from the job. For some, especially preschool age children, older adults in health care facilities, and those with impaired immune systems, foodborne illness is more serious and may be life threatening.

The annual cost of foodborne illness in terms of pain and suffering, reduced productivity, and medical costs are estimated to be $10 - $83 billion. As stated by Meade et. al., the nature of food and foodborne illness has changed dramatically in the United States over the last century. While technological advances such as pasteurization and proper canning have all but eliminated some disease, new causes of foodborne illness have been identified.

Surveillance of foodborne illness is complicated by several factors. The first is underreporting. Although foodborne illnesses can be severe or even fatal, milder cases are often not detected through routine surveillance. Second, many pathogens transmitted through food are also spread through water or from person to person, thus obscuring the role of foodborne transmission. Finally, pathogens or agents that have not yet been identified and thus cannot be diagnosed cause some proportion of foodborne illness.

Risk Factors

Epidemiological outbreak data repeatedly identify five major risk factors related to employee behaviors and preparation practices in retail and food service establishments as contributing to foodborne illness:

  1. Poor hand hygiene
  2. Improper holding temperatures,
  3. Inadequate cooking, such as undercooking raw shell eggs,
  4. Contaminated equipment, and
  5. Food from unsafe sources.


The Food Code addresses controls for risk factors and further establishes 5 key public health interventions to protect consumer health. Specifically, these interventions are: 1.) demonstration of knowledge, 2.) employee health controls, controlling hands as a vehicle of contamination; 3/4.) time and temperature parameters for controlling pathogens, and 5.) the consumer advisory. The first two interventions are found in Chapter 2 and the last three in Chapter 3.


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.

IThe 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.

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.

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.


To assist food establishments in applying ®). Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. A food quality assurance system that identifies, evaluates and controls potentially hazardous foods and handling practices in the food industry. A HACCP plan is a written document based on HACCP principles to insure the safe delivery of food.">HACCP principles at retail, FDA has issued a draft document entitled: Managing Food Safety: A HACCP Principles Guide for Operators of Food Service, Retail Food Stores, and Other Food Establishments at the Retail Level. This document is available from FDA and can be found on the FDA Web Page at http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~ear/retail.html .

Hand Hygiene in Retail & Food Service Establishments May, 2003

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