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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


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Initiatives for Food Code Implementation and Foodborne Illness Risk Factor Reduction

July 2002



FDA provides assistance to state, local, tribal, and federal jurisdictions that directly regulate food establishments at the retail level. One of the ways the Agency performs that function is through the development of the FDA Food Code which consists of model requirements for safeguarding public health and ensuring food is safe, unadulterated, and honestly presented when offered to the consumer. Although the Public Health Service has issued various model codes since 1934, the current, comprehensive model code first issued in 1993 and has been updated biennially through the 2001 edition.

The Food Code is offered for adoption by governmental jurisdictions for administration by the various units within each jurisdiction that have been delegated compliance responsibilities for food service, retail food stores, or food vending operations.


Adoption of the Food Code represents a successful federal/state/local/tribal partnership in improving food safety. However, adoption without instituting meaningful foodborne illness interventions and a strong regulatory program infrastructure is not effective. With the current initiative to reduce the occurrence of risk factors known to cause foodborne illness, the primary focus is appropriately shifting to measures of success beyond Food Code adoption. These include tracking risk factor occurrences over time by comparing baseline improvements in inspection data and follow-up inspection findings; use of risk- based inspections; applying HACCP principles; and uniformly implementing Food Code provisions.


The Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards (Program Standards) are a set of criteria deemed necessary for conducting an effective regulatory food program. They were endorsed by the Conference for Food Protection at its April 2002 meeting. Food Code adoption is encompassed in Program Standard #1, Regulatory Foundation. In the context of the Program Standards, food programs are assessed in their entirety, not on the premise of Code adoption, alone.

Consistent with Program Standard #1 and with current efforts to reduce the risk factors, the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), under contract with the Food and Drug Administration, is gathering data on the progress of FDA Food Code adoptions by agencies in states, territories, local, and tribal nations.

The information is self-reported by the jurisdictions and regarded as such. A detailed, side-by-side comparison of a jurisdictions' code with the Food Code is part of the self-assessment and audit processes under the Program Standards. It is FDA’s intent, as an inherent part of working with jurisdictions in this voluntary initiative, to implement the Program Standards. This will not only entail in-depth audits as to whether adopted codes provide the same level of food safety requirements and consumer protection as does the Food Code; but will also compare how regulatory program operations compare to all the Program Standards. That information will be made available in the future on this website.

The AFDO report is titled, "Real Progress in Food Code Adoptions".