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Adopting the latest version of the Food Code helps states become proactive rather than reactive when it comes to tackling foodborne illnesses. While it might not be top of mind, according to International Food Information Council’s 2021 Food & Health Survey more than 50% of Americans consider foodborne illness a top safety concern. States can bend the curve of foodborne illness and streamline the enforcement process through a variety of mechanisms, including adoption of the most modern food safety standards.   

Check the map below to see if your state has adopted the most recent version of the FDA Food Code. The development of this map was supported by the Retail Food Safety Regulatory Association Collaborative. NCSL in partnership with the National Environmental Health Association, created this resource for states to quickly see if they have adopted the latest version of the FDA Food Code, which provides a technical and scientifically based approach for regulating the retail and food service establishments including restaurants, grocery stores and institutions.

This map reflects Food Code adoption as of November 2021. Certain states have multiple agencies that regulate retail food safety and may use different versions of the Food Code. For more detailed information and to access tools and resources to help modernize retail food safety programs in your jurisdiction, go to the Retail Food Safety Regulatory Association Collaborative’s Food Code Adoption Toolkit

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) has estimated the cost of foodborne illnesses from 15 major pathogens that are responsible for more than 95% of illnesses and deaths from foodborne illnesses. ERS’ mean estimate of the total annual cost of foodborne illness from noroviruses in 2013 was over $2.2 billion (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2017). Overall, the economic impact for foodborne illness associated with the 15 pathogens studied was calculated to be $14.1–$15.2 billion annually (USDA, 2017).  

A Salmonella outbreak in onions in October 2021 was linked to 892 illnesses in 38 states and Puerto Rico. USDA’s ERS estimates that from 2013 to 2018, three pathogens, salmonella, toxoplasma, and listeria, were responsible for more than 60 percent of the economic costs associated with foodborne illnesses, with salmonella contributing to $4.1 billion in costs.  

While it may not be possible to eliminate foodborne illnesses, states can take steps to help reduce the likelihood of an outbreak. For example, the most recent version of the FDA Food Code is designed to control/prevent foodborne illnesses at the retail level and can increase states’ ability to control foodborne illness in restaurants. As the retail food industry evolves, the FDA Food Code is updated with evidence‐based methods for combatting risk factors related to foodborne illness.  

Uniform adoption of the Food Code can likely reduce costs for restaurants, states, consumers and the country. Despite this, only about one-quarter of states have adopted the latest version of the Food Code.  

The Food Safety Modernization Act requires the FDA to work with state and local governments to build their food safety and food defense capabilities, including providing additional resources for state food safety programs. Further, the FDA is directed to work with states and local health programs to determine the best approach to addressing surveillance and tracing back of foodborne outbreaks. 

The act primarily addresses regulatory gaps at the FDA and does not place a burden on the states. States are not required to perform any of its provisions nor does the law supersede state law. Food producers and processors still must follow state rules, in addition to the new FDA requirements. Because the FDA has not promulgated its regulations, no case can be made that their rules conflict with any state rules. There may be a likelihood of duplication of efforts, however, between the state standards and the FDA requirements once the rules are promulgated. 

To learn more about the effect of FSMA on states, visit NCSL’s resource on the Food Safety Modernization Act

Forty percent of the food produced in the U.S. is wasted, which translates to $162 billion in annual waste. In a country in which nearly 50 million Americans face food insecurity, it’s estimated the equivalent of 58 billion meals go to waste each year. 

Waste occurs throughout the supply chain—from farms (16%), manufacturers (2%), businesses (40%) and households (43%). Food waste is about more than what goes into the trash. Getting food from farm to fork takes extensive resources—energy, land and water. The U.S. spends $218 billion each year to grow, handle, deliver and dispose of uneaten food. 

Food waste is also the largest component of municipal landfills. In addition to taking up space, decomposing food releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. 

Fortunately, food waste is a problem with solutions. State and federal laws, as well as efforts by businesses, organizations and consumers, can reduce the amount of food that goes to waste, helping to conserve natural resources, create economic opportunities and feed the hungry. 

To learn more about state and federal policy options to reduce food waste, visit NCSL’s resource on Fighting Food Waste.  

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