NC restaurant inspection grades.
Local public health departments inspect restaurants for safety. Image courtesy Forsyth County Environmental Health

By Rose Hoban

While many North Carolinians were cooking out for the holiday weekend, few realized that the state was making changes to rules over handling food in restaurants.

Measuring the temperature in a commercial refrigerator
Under the new rules, restaurant refrigerators will have to be set to temperatures below 41 degrees to restrain the growth of bacteria such as listeria. Image courtesy CDC/ Amanda Mills

Across the country, 49 states have embraced new rules adopted by the Food and Drug Administration in 2009 to improve food safety in restaurants, and decrease the chances of foodborne illnesses. North Carolina is the last state to adopt the rules.

The new food code is the most comprehensive change to North Carolina’s food preparation standards in more than 30 years.

“We have an antiquated platform that our rules rest on,” said Larry Michael head of food protection at the state Division of Public Health.

Michael said the science has shown many of those old rules were out of date, and often, not even effective at protecting people.
“We tweaked (the old code) over the years, but it becomes difficult to deal with from an industry perspective,” said Michael, who described the old rules a ‘patchwork.’

“Our inspectors have spent the last year learning the new rules and how to administer them,” wrote, Durham County Public Health Director Gayle Harris in an press release.  “We have also worked very closely with our local food provider community to help them make the transition to the new system.  These new rules allow us to keep up with changes in food preparation techniques, w

hile keeping public health and safety in mind.”

Diners will probably see those restaurant grades drop by a few points. Under the old rules, if one employee had completed a voluntary food safety , the restaurant got an extra 2 points on the score (that’s how many restaurants had scores over 100 points) – that bonus will be eliminated. In addition, each restaurant will need someone on hand for every shift who has completed the food safety training or lose more points.

In response to a evolving trend, food trucks will also be subject to the new food code, and they will also be required to post a sanitation rating card.

NC restaurant inspection grades.
Local public health departments inspect restaurants for safety. Image courtesy Forsyth County Environmental Health

• Each food establishment will be required to demonstrate knowledge of food protection by passing an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited exam. This requirement will be phased in and become effective January 1, 2014.

• Each food establishment will be required to develop and adhere to an Employee Health Policy to prevent and control the transmission of illnesses.

• Food establishments will be required to refrain from handling exposed, ready-to-eat foods with bare hands.

• Food establishments will be required to decrease the temperature of refrigerated foods and must date-mark opened, ready-to-eat foods.

To view the new North Carolina Food Code in its entirety, visit

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News, as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992, but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees...