Anchorage Assembly to vote on proposed food code changes

Published: Nov. 30, 2017 at 2:00 PM AKST
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The Anchorage Assembly will soon vote on a proposal to update the municipality’s food code and bring it up to the Federal Drug Administration’s standards. The city's food code hasn’t been updated since 2005.

Shelly Griffith, the environmental health program manager for Anchorage, says the Department of Health and Human Services has been working on the food code update for a few years; holding at least three public meetings over the past year and an open comment period to voice any concerns.

One of the bigger proposed changes would be the prohibition of bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods when it comes to garnishes. The ordinance states that it is “supported by strong scientific evidence that bare hand contact leads to food borne illnesses." This is currently under state code but not in the municipality’s food code. Forty three states, including Alaska, have this rule. Griffith says this does not mean bartenders and servers have to wear gloves.

“We do want to emphasize you can use tongs, toothpicks or other alternative means,” Griffith said. “We do not have to use gloves, that way we’re not filling up landfills, which is great too.”

Here are some other proposed changes to the food code:

• The creation of cottage food licenses, which are foods that include home cooked goodies like cookies and breads.

• The current 100 point restaurant rating system will now be based on percentages.

• Food trucks would have to display their permit code on the side of the mobile kitchen with the height of at least three inches.

• Adding language back in the code to allow wild game meat to be donated to food banks and to be used in institutions such as schools and senior programs.

• Allowing freshly caught fish that is not frozen to be served at restaurants if the fish is cooked at a minimum temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit. A consumer advisory warning would have to be included in the menu.

The ordinance will be introduced at the Assembly’s Dec. 5 meeting, with a vote expected Dec. 19.