Starting on Jan. 1, Iowa restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores and schools will have updated food safety standards aimed at preventing food-borne illness.
The rules, put into place by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, also will require food establishments to designate an employee to become a certified food protection manager to oversee the safe handling, preparation and service of food items.
Food and Consumer Safety Bureau Chief Steven Mandernach said it's important for these establishments to have someone who knows the intricacies of the process and know the reasons behind the rules in the food code.
To become a certified food protection manager, food service employees must undergo six hours of training and take a two hour exam.
"This is just smart business," said Jessica Dunker, president of the Iowa Restaurant Association (IRA). "Our research shows that restaurants lose between 75 to 90 percent of business the week after a food-borne illness is tracked to them."
Dunker said that the Iowa State extension offices and the IRA offer courses for the five-year certificate, which cost between $100 to $150.
The Department of Inspections and Appeals estimates that between 25 to 40 percent of Iowa food establishments already have a certified food protection manager on staff. Additionally, about half the states require certified food protection managers, including Minnesota, Illinois and South Dakota.
The requirement for a certified food protection manager will be phased in, with new establishments opening after Jan. 1 being required to employ an individual who is a certified food protection manager within 6 months of opening. Older establishments must meet the requirement within six months of receiving a violation that could contribute to food-borne illness, or by Jan. 1, 2018.
There also are new standards for food processing. In the past, the department has updated food-processing standards as a new industry came into the state, but Mandernach said that delayed new industries from being certified for foreign export.
He pointed to a manufacturer making infant formula and shellfish farmers, industries the state has not had in the past."There were no standards in place, which could (make things) challenging," he said.