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Guam - The proposed Guam food code or bill 307 was discussed during a Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association meeting. The bill would change some of the food safety standards that regulate restaurants and other food preparers.
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The current food code that regulates restaurants and food preparers is based on old regulations that date back to 1984. Guam's regulations are about 30 years old. So a task force was created to update the regulations which resulted in bill 307. Public Health Administrator of Environmental Health Tom Nadeau is a member of that task force and he gave a presentation on the new regulations to the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Authority. One of the biggest changes will be the temperature that cold foods will have to be stored at. "The food code will lower the cold holding temperature from 45 degrees to 41 degrees now I know that now based on our inspection or observation the majority of your cold holding equipment can go down to 41 degrees or lower the problem we found is that a lot of the equipment their using now is kind of old in the sense that the seal is not tight its just not as good as it used to be,” said Nadeau. He believes that the challenge for most businesses will be that their equipment may be in need of replacement which will of course cost more money. To help alleviate some of this the task force will ask for a one year transitional period for compliance. So why the drop from 45 to 41 degrees? It's because of a food borne illness called listeria. It can cause pregnant woman to have still births or miscarriages. "It can actually grow at 45 degrees which is the current cold holding temperature but at 41 degrees it retards it's growth so based on science we agree with the food code that it should be lowered to 41 degrees not the current temperature of 45 degrees,” explained Nadeau.
Another change in Guam regulations has to do with the requirement for wearing gloves. "This is probably the most controversial of all the requirements of the food code which is the use of gloves when touching ready to eat foods when I talk ready to eat foods I'm talking about foods that are ready to be served right then and there...salad, dessert, sushi,” said Nadeau. In fact it's the glove requirement for the preparation of sushi that will likely be the most controversial. GHRA President Mary Torre explained saying, "There are some things that are just not necessary like gloves with sushi chefs, traditionally they don't use gloves but I can tell you with the hand washing techniques and a lot of the food safety techniques that we use within the facilities that's why it's safe and it's also things like the vinegar that go in sushi and things like that, that all together if you have the process correct then you won't have to worry about the use of gloves.”
So why require the use of gloves? It's because of the norovirus which causes the stomach flu. It is easily spread through the hands. The GHRA however isn't against all of these new regulations they just want to provide some input. "We're appreciative of public health coming out and working together with the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association knowing that a lot of our input is really how we would implement something and make it more practical and put it in use,” said Torre.
It's important to note that the GHRA only represents a fraction of the businesses that will be impacted by this. "I think there will be a lot of challenges especially when we go into the public hearing when you're dealing with the mom and pop stores and the convenience stores that will have some challenges with how they serve food without any refrigeration today,” said Torre. Bill 307 or the Guam food code has yet to be scheduled for a public hearing.
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