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Regulations Affecting Restaurants


A restaurant, or food establishment, is a place that prepares or serves food for human consumption. For the purposes of health regulations, this definition includes mobile food service operations, catering operations, and vending machine locations. In the United States, a license from the local health department is generally required to operate a food establishment. To reduce the risk of food-borne illness, local food codes contain certain standard requirements. These requirements will be checked by a sanitarian or health inspector during an inspection of a food establishment.

Source/Labeling. All food must be properly labeled, wholesome, safe for human consumption, and from an approved source.

Temperature. The danger zone for potentially hazardous foods is between 41°F and 140°F. Potentially hazardous foods (those capable of supporting the growth of disease-causing microorganisms) should be held at an internal temperature of 41°F or below during cold holding and 140°F or above during hot holding.

Cooking. Poultry, exotic meats, stuffed fish, and meat must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F or above. Pork, ground fish and meats, injected meats, and unpasteurized eggs must be cooked to an internal temperature of 155°F or above. All other potentially hazardous food (except beef roasts, for which temperature and cooking time depend on weight) are to be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F or above.

Cooling. Potentially hazardous cooked foods should be cooled from 140°F to 41°F within four hours, using methods such as placing the food in shallow pans, ice baths, or blast chillers.

Thawing. Food should be thawed either in a refrigerated unit at 41°F or below, under cold running water, in a microwave for immediate cooking, or as part of the cooking process.

Employee Health. Food-service employees should be excluded from a food establishment if diagnosed with salmonellosis, shigellosis, E. coli infection, or hepatitis A. In addition, food-service employees should be restricted from working with exposed food; clean equipment, utensils, or linens; or unwrapped single-use items if the employee has symptoms associated with acute gastrointestinal illness, such as diarrhea, fever, vomiting, jaundice, or sore throat with a fever.

Handwashing/Gloves. Food-service employees must wash their hands and exposed portions of their arms with soap for at least twenty seconds, thoroughly rinse with clean water, and dry with a paper towel, sanitary towel, or a heated air handdrying device before starting work; after using the restroom; after touching their nose, mouth, or hair; after coughing or sneezing, after tobacco use, eating, or drinking; when switching between working with raw foods and working with ready-to-eat foods; after handling garbage, soiled tableware, or soiled kitchenware; after handling animals; and as often as necessary during work to keep them clean. They must avoid contact with exposed, ready-to-eat food with their bare hands, using only suitable utensils such as spatulas, tongs, or single-use gloves.

Cross-Contamination. Food should be protected from cross-contamination during storage, preparation, holding, and display. Ready-to-eat foods must be stored above raw meats and seafood. Raw poultry must be stored below all other foods. During preparation, separate equipment for each type of raw animal food can be used. All food-contact surfaces should be washed, rinsed, and sanitized after each use.

James E. Kuder

(see also: Food-Borne Diseases; Licensing, Regulatory Authority; Salmonellosis; Shigellosis )


Berenson, A. S., ed. (1995). Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, 16th edition. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association.

Educational Foundation of the National Restaurant Association (1992). "The Safe Foodhandler." In Applied Foodservice Sanitation, 4th edition. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (1999). The Food Code. Washington, DC: U.S. Public Health Service.

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