Health Dept Blog

Cowlitz Health Spotlight

This is where we dive deeper into a variety of health topics and highlight services and activities we and other partner organizations are providing in the community. Have a blog idea? Let us know! 

Email: AskCowlitzHealth@co.cowlitz.wa.us

View All Posts

May 18

Rule Changes Now In Effect For Washington State Food Establishments – Are You In The Know?

Posted on May 18, 2022 at 10:59 am by Stefanie Donahue

Whether you operate or work at a restaurant, grocery store, food truck, or catering business, chances are you’re getting familiar with revised health and safety rules for Washington state food establishments that recently went into effect.
 
The Washington State Department of Health and other partners are working to educate food establishments in the state about the revised rules.
 
The Washington State Board of Health adopted the revised rules in October 2020 to incorporate the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 2017 food code and to include modifications that address legislative changes and other food safety concerns.
 
Here’s a breakdown (adapted from the Washington State Department of Health):

• Date marking for 7-day shelf life of unpackaged refrigerated foods. Cold and ready-to-eat food that requires time and temperature control for safety must be date stamped and used or frozen within 7 days.
 
• Refilling reusable consumer-owned containers. 
Food establishments can choose to allow employees or consumers to refill visibly clean containers. Plans must be submitted in advance and approval must be provided by the local health department.
 
• Active managerial control and the duties of the person in charge. A new rule defines “active managerial control” and calls on the person in charge to take steps to prevent food safety risks and ensure employees receive proper training.

• Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) requirements.
Most food establishments must have access to a CFPM by March 2023. CFPMs ensure the person in charge is trained and able to manage food safety effectively.

• Employee health, illness, and hygiene. 
Employees must be trained in a verifiable manner to recognize symptoms of foodborne illnesses. Until they are free of symptoms, sick employees must not be allowed to work at a food establishment.  
 
• Modification of consumer advisory and requirements for parasite reduction in fresh fish. 
Food establishments can serve partially-cooked fresh finfish without destroying the parasites that may occur in fish if requested by the consumer and there is a modified consumer advisory. 
 
• Clean up procedures for vomit and diarrhea. 
Employees must be provided with a written plan and training for cleaning up vomit and diarrhea. Plans must be specific to the individual food establishment.
 
• Mobile food unit requirements. If already approved and permitted in their primary county of operation, mobile food units can be exempted from an additional plan review by a local health department. Mobile food units are still required to obtain a permit in each county they operate.
 
• Donated food operating requirements, facility clarifications, and modifications to food source. 
Livestock that is custom cut and not from a U.S. Department of Agriculture source can no longer be used by a Donated Food Distributing Organization (DFDO). Wild caught fish is now approved for donation to a DFDO.
 
• Dogs in select areas of food establishments. 
Food establishments can choose to allow pet dogs in outdoor dining areas. Plans must be submitted in advance and approval must be provided by the local health department. Only trained service animals are allowed indoors at businesses that prepare food.
 
• Cooking temperatures for ground meat. 
Scrambled eggs for more than one person, ground beef, and sausage must be cooked to 158°F. To prevent cross-contamination issues with fish allergens, raw fish must be prepared separately from other raw meats. 

The new food rules went into effect on March 1, 2022. 
 
To learn more, view this brochure from the Washington State Department of Health: https://bit.ly/37X5YyF. You can also sign up to receive food rule email updates from the state here: https://bit.ly/3yvRMYx.

If you have questions, reach out to Cowlitz County Environmental Health Specialist Lead Jesse Smith: smithj@co.cowlitz.wa.us.