Top Food Code Standard – Avoiding Personal Contamination

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The Critical FDA Food Code item #6 associated with an increased risk of food borne illness is eating, tasting, drinking or using tobacco in a non-designated area.

Avoid eating, tasting, drinking or using tobacco in non-designated areas to prevent potential food borne illness and practice standards of common courtesy. Our mouths carry germs. Most of those germs are safe and don’t cause harm but at any point in time we may be carrying a germ that hasn’t yet made us sick. Eating, tasting and drinking in food preparation areas could contaminate your customer’s food and put them at risk. Consider those you are serving like guests in your own home. Respect their sensitivities. Avoiding these practices will reduce the likelihood of your facility being cited for this common violation and help keep your restaurant’s food safety image clean.

So, what is NOT acceptable by FDA code?

  • Any tasting, eating, drinking or smoking in non-designated areas.

When I worked full time in a busy emergency room, it was very tempting to eat or drink in the patient care “arena”. When working hard, it is sometimes difficult to take a personal break. Understandable but attention to acceptable commercial food preparation standards is important.

What is acceptable by FDA code?

  • Drinking from a closed beverage container.
  • Keeping the beverage container stored away from food, food contact surfaces, clean equipment and unwrapped articles.

What are examples of acceptable non-designated area?

  • Employee lounge
  • Inconspicuous booth or table
  • Non-food preparation area

In reviewing our Dining Grades database of nearly 3 million health department scores, we have discovered national trends. A subset of that database is the distribution of FDA Food Code top violations. Eating, tasting, drinking or using tobacco in non-designated areas is a top trending violation. To see further reports, claim your restaurant listing.


Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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