Letter: Maine Restaurant Association cites regulatory lag

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The article “In tepid water: Many fast-food restaurants don’t comply with Maine health requirement” doesn’t tell the whole story. Thorough hand washing is critical to food safety. There is no excuse for restaurants’ failure to meet temperature rules. I simply point out that the 2001 Maine Food Code is outdated. The FDA Federal Food Code changed the hand washing temperature requirements from 110 degrees to 100 degress back in 2005. Maine simply hasn’t kept pace.

National chains tend to observe the FDA Federal Food Code and must adjust when a state has a different rule. Generally when the Federal Food Code changes, the national chains pay close attention and assume that the FDA Code is more up to date than state code and in this case, it is.

Maine will adopt the same 100-degree, hand washing temperature requirement later this summer and would have made this change back in 2009 had sufficient staff resources been available to complete the required review of the 2005 FDA Food Code.

Of the 14 restaurants that were included in the published account (more were apparently tested but passed), four were deficient based on the Federal Food Code 100-degree  requirement. One of those was mechanically caused and corrected. Of the three remaining restaurants, one was off by only 2 degrees. This means that only two restaurants from all that were tested, the reported 14 and others, were below the Federal requirement. Not nearly the indictment of the restaurant industry as article implied.

Dick Grotton, president
Maine Restaurant Association