Pennsylvania’s new food safety law initiates major procedure changes

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A new law recently adopted by the state legislature will have some immediate and important impacts on eating establishments in Pennsylvania, according to a food safety expert in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

House bill 74, which became Act 106 of 2010, has combined and updated previous regulations, said Martin Bucknavage, senior extension associate in food science.

“The law will use the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Code as a standard, and so Pennsylvania regulations across the state will stay current as the Food Code is updated,” Bucknavage said.

Pay attention

There are some aspects of the law that managers of retail food establishments should note.

If a facility needs to be inspected a second time due to obtaining a noncompliant status there will be a fee of $150. If a third inspection is needed, the cost jumps to $300.

In the past, eatery proprietors could request that a state inspector do a cursory inspection, which was a free service. But now there will be a $150 fee charged for unofficial inspections.

“It is also important to note that the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has the right to perform an inspection if the local health authority has failed to perform the required inspection,” Bucknavage said.

Inspectors will also have the right to inspect any facility that makes or sells food, and to take samples. The Department of Agriculture will pay for those samples.

New requirements

One of the biggest changes may be the new requirements regarding the establishment’s certified manager. The certified person is considered the person-in-charge of the facility. They will be the ones that talk to the inspectors, and must be certified.

“Under the new law, if the owner is not certified, then the owner is not technically in charge. Additionally, the certified person must be accessible at all times the facility is operating. And the certified employee can be the person-in-charge for only one facility. The only exception is temporary facilities such as at a fair,” Bucknavage said.

New certifications

As a result of the new law, the state no longer will be involved in issuing certifications. In the past, people wishing to be certified took an approved food-safety training course followed by an examination and then sent the testing body’s certificate and $20 to the Department of Agriculture to receive and official state certification. This is changing. The testing body certificate will now be the accepted document.

“The state no longer will issue recertification certificates. That is, a person will need to take the certification examination every five years, instead of just having to participate in eight hours of training and then sending the old state certification to the Department of Agriculture for reissuance of a new certificate,” said Bucknavage.

Those who wish to obtain recertification under current law have until Jan. 22, 2011 to apply.

Bucknavage said Penn State Cooperative Extension offices throughout the state will offer limited recertification opportunities. Extension conducts state-approved food-safety certification training for food-service managers through ServSafe, a national program developed by the National Restaurant Association.

For more information, contact a Penn State Cooperative Extension office or visit the Extension’s food-safety website at http://extension.psu.edu/food-safety/serv-safe.

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