North Carolina will soon join the ranks of states requiring certified food protection managers (CFPM) in all restaurants and other food-service outlets. By Jan. 1, 2014, NC establishments must have at least one supervisor certified as a food protection manager through an American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited program or face a two-point violation from the state health department. These managers are required on-site whenever the establishment is preparing or serving food. Their job is to recognize conditions that may contribute to foodborne illness, or that fail to comply with rule requirements, and to take appropriate preventive and corrective actions. North Carolina is certainly not the first state to require CFPMs. More than a dozen others had already made the change by the time the Tar Heel State adopted the regulation on Sept. 1, 2012. Since then, restaurants have had the time to obtain certification before the Jan. 1 deadline. But, even before that, the state had been giving restaurants an extra two points on their inspections if they had voluntarily certified a food protection manager. “Required food safety certification is something that we’ve been discussing with stakeholders for a number of years,” said Larry Michael, the head of North Carolina’s Food Protection Program at the state health department. “The primary reason for adopting this standard is that FDA’s Retail Food Risk Factor Studies suggest that the presence of a certified food manager has a positive correlation with more effective control of certain risk factors.” Since September, the NC Department of Health and Human Services has been working with local health departments and industry associations to make sure facilities know about the requirement and how to meet it. Michael says there’s been an “overwhelmingly positive” response to the new requirement. “Restaurants understand that having a knowledgeable person in charge helps ensure foods are being handled in a safe manner and helps protect their customers from foodborne illness,” he said. Alyssa Barkley, chief operating officer for the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, says the organization supports the new rule and the adoption of the FDA food code across the state more broadly. “The food protection manager certification requirement helps reinforce the need for our industry to demonstrate the knowledge and desire to prepare and serve safe food to the public,” Barkley said. “Our biggest challenge is making sure each and every establishment learns about the rule updates. This is where our strong partnership with the state and local health departments helps us to communicate and educate statewide. Safe food is good business.” “I think if someone in a restaurant has an understanding of risks, that’s a best practice,” said Ben Chapman, assistant professor and food-safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. But understanding the risks and being able to set up a system for controlling them are different things. Food facilities can’t rely solely on compliance with the law, Chapman said, noting, “The way to make your restaurant or facility safer is if the manager comes back [from certification] and teaches everybody and it gets into the culture.”