Food Digest - 2020 Edition

Food Digest

2020 Edition

Food Establishment License Renewal Dates Extended

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, the renewal deadline for all food establishment licenses issued by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has been extended until 60 days after the declared states of emergency and disaster have ended.

Food establishments are still required to renew their licenses, but all late fees for the licensing period of May 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021, have been waived. You must pay the 2020-2021 license renewal fee in order to receive a 2020-2021 license, but any past due fines and fees from 2019 through March 2020 will remain due and may be paid later. Please remember, your food establishment license must be conspicuously posted.


For additional information or questions, contact MDARD’s Customer Service Center at 800-292-3939.

Have a Question? Ask Your Food Inspector!

Your food inspector is a great resource for you and your business. Please contact the MDARD Customer Service Center at 1-800-292-3939 to get in touch with your area food inspector. You’ll need to provide the county and zip code where your business is located for faster service.

Important COVID-19 Resources

Census 2020: Make Sure You Are Counted!

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census strives to count every person living in the U.S. The next census is occurring right now, and deadlines have been extended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Now more than ever, with Michigan’s share of federal funding over the next 10 years on the line, collecting complete and accurate information during the census is extremely important.

In addition to the challenges of collecting census data during the COVID-19 pandemic, many challenges, obstacles and misinformation about the census persist which could hamper participation. This is especially the case in rural areas and large urban communities, which have been traditionally undercounted in the census.

It is vital for everyone who was living in Michigan on April 1, 2020, or anyone who spends at least 50 percent of their time in Michigan during the year, to be counted as living in Michigan on the 2020 U.S. Census. There are just nine simple questions, and the 2020 Census is available online for added convenience.

The Michigan Census has launched a statewide “Count Me In” campaign, to communicate the importance of completing the census, dispel myths, and maximize participation in the census.

The message is simple and can be summarized with the “Count Me In” campaign’s three Cs:

  1. Responding to the census is convenient. People can respond by mail, phone or online.
  2. The census is 100% confidential and secure. Your information will not be shared with anyone.
  3. Making sure everyone is counted is critical to the future success of Michigan. Census numbers are used to determine how much federal funding our state will receive for essential services that impact local communities.

In 2016, Michigan received nearly $30 billion in federal funding, all based on past census numbers, including:

  • $2.3 billion for food assistance programs
  • $694.3 million for housing assistance
  • $1.1 billion for highway planning and construction
  • $17 billion for health programs
  • $5 billion for education

The U.S. Census count is also used to shape congressional representation. We currently have 14 representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives but stand to lose one seat if our state’s population declines. If we lose a congressional seat, Michigan’s congressional districts would be redrawn, and lead to a reduction in the number of electoral votes we have in presidential elections. Michigan needs you to complete the census, and to help spread the word that responding to the census is convenient, confidential and critical to our future here in Michigan. For more information about the census, visit Thank you for doing your part to make sure Michiganders are counted.

Active Managerial Control:
You CAN prevent Foodborne Illnesses!

Did you know that one in six Americans get foodborne illness every year and that over 3,000 people in America will die from it as a result of eating away from home? Did you know there are five categories of contributing factors are associated with foodborne illness outbreaks? Did you know if you require and ensure your employees perform these tasks correctly it greatly reduces the chance of foodborne illness at your food establishment? You can reduce your risk of foodborne illness by establishing Active Managerial Control (AMC), the purposeful incorporation of specific actions by industry management into the operation of their business to attain control over foodborne illness risk factors.

Here are five easy steps:

  1. Purchase food only from approved sources.
  2. Properly cook and reheat the foods you serve.
  3. Control your cold and hot holding temperatures by properly date-marking food items, cooling hot food using 2-stage cooling methods, and thawing frozen food properly.
  4. Prevent cross-contamination by thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and utensils, properly storing raw and ready-to-eat food items and protecting food contact surfaces from splashes from the environment.
  5. Have and enforce an employee health program that includes a strong illness policy, not allowing bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food items, a strong hand-washing policy and requiring your employees to practice good personal hygiene.

Some actions you can use to obtain AMC include training your employees; having employees document time and temperatures for cooking/cooling/reheating and hot and cold holding/date marking; enforcing your illness/hand washing policies; using only approved food sources; using your 3-compartment sink properly by washing with detergent in the first bay, rinsing in clear water the 2nd bay and sanitizing in the 3rd bay; verifying the strength of your sanitizer; and direct management oversight while employees are handling food.

Please don’t be the food establishment causing of an illness or death. Be proactive in preventing foodborne illness. Take charge! Implement AMC now. Contact your food inspector for guidance on how to achieve AMC.

Power Outages -- How to Respond?

In the event of a power outage, are you prepared to help protect your food products from adulteration? If your business has lost power, you need to assess the affected operations. Areas impacted could include refrigeration, lighting, ventilation, cooking equipment, dish washing equipment, water supply, and sewage disposal. Use resources from your service provider and the local media to determine how long the power outage may impact your business. Consumers Energy and DTE, for example, have website and phone apps to help evaluate the impact of power outages.

It is important to plan so you are prepared to respond in the event of loss of electrical service. Identify sources for generators, ice, and dry ice before they are needed. Is your business prepared to handle a loss of power for several hours or multiple days? MDARD has created an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) booklet providing example plans to help you create your own plan tailored to your business.

Temperature abuse of food products can allow harmful bacteria to grow in food or allow spoilage that may be harmful if eaten. Deciding if refrigerated foods must be thrown away or if they can be saved is based on recommended time and temperature controls. You must be able to monitor the temperatures of the refrigerated food products (e.g., using a probe thermometer placed between packages of food). Once product temperatures are above 41°F you have a limited amount of time to respond before they must be thrown away.

Frozen food products are required to remain frozen. If your frozen foods have been allowed to thaw, then you will need to determine if they must be thrown away. Indication of adulteration may include weeping, stains, evaporation, physical depreciation, container damage.

A loss of power will likely mean needing to limit the food operations that you conduct in the business. Many firms choose to remain closed until the power can be restored. It’s important to contact your MDARD food inspector if you are impacted by an emergency and let them know how you are responding to the event. Your area inspector is also a valuable resource when seeking guidance on how to respond in an emergency. Food establishment operators must comply with applicable Food Code and Food Law requirements during all times of operation. If you cannot meet those requirements you must cease operations.

After power has been restored you must evaluate the facility prior to resuming operations. Verify that electricity, water and gas services are fully functional. Check circuit breakers to make sure they are properly re-set. Verify that refrigeration and freezer units are operating properly at correct temperatures before they are used to hold food products. Equipment may need to be cleaned if products thawed, or packaging leaked due to temperature abuse. Food contact surfaces must be cleaned and sanitized, including ice machine bins. Water lines may need to be flushed, filters changed, etc.

For helpful reference tools, visit MDARD’s website at, and search for ‘Emergency Action Plan.’ As always, the best advice regarding food temperature abuse is, “when in doubt, throw it out.” Don’t take chances with the health of your customers or the economic impacts to your business if foodborne illness is traced to your facility.

Operating a Retail Food Business During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has created the risk of COVID-19 exposure in food-selling establishments and pharmacies. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 at your retail food establishment is critical to protecting public health. Supermarkets and convenience stores are critical infrastructure and must be up and running for a community to stay healthy and recover.

Although food has not been identified as a likely source of COVID-19 infections, close contact with people/groups (not social distancing) leads to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. COVID-19 can survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours and up to three days on hard surfaces such as plastic and stainless-steel surfaces. Food establishments are a likely point of community contact, so it is vital for you to follow requirements to prevent the spread of the virus in your food establishment. This will protect your frontline workers and your customers.

Due to the emergency conditions that exist in the State of Michigan caused by COVID-19, important safety measures need to be put in place to protect consumers and employees at grocery stores and pharmacies. If you sell food directly to consumers, here are the basic requirements for food establishments to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Customers who can medically tolerate a face covering must wear one when entering a grocery store or pharmacy.
  • Grocery stores and pharmacies must allocate at least two hours per week of shopping time for vulnerable populations.
  • If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the business must notify other employees without infringing on private health information.

Food sellers must also continue doing the following:  

  • Require checkout employees to wear some form of covering over their nose and mouth.
  • Ensure both employees and customers remain at least 6 feet apart. 
  • Close self-serve food stations, such as salad bars, and eliminate free samples and tasting stations.
  • Adopt procedures to meet federal environmental cleaning guidelines, including continuously cleaning and disinfecting frequent touchpoints, such as point-of-sale terminals at registers, shopping carts and shopping baskets. 
  • Prohibit employees who are sick from reporting to work and send employees home if they display COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Accommodate employees who fall within a vulnerable population by providing lower-exposure work assignments or giving them the option to take an unpaid leave of absence.
  • Develop and implement a daily screening program for all staff upon or just prior to reporting to work sites.

Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting – Know the Difference!

When taking preventative measures against COVID-19 in your food establishment, it’s important to understand the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting. Here are some basics:

  • Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection. ALWAYS clean before you sanitize or disinfect to increase the effectiveness of the sanitizer or disinfectant.
  • Sanitizing refers to using chemicals that reduce the number of microorganisms to a safe level. Sanitizers can be used on hard, non-porous food contact surfaces.
  • Disinfecting refers to using chemicals (e.g., EPA-registered disinfectants) to kill germs on surfaces. Disinfecting destroys more bacteria and/or viruses than sanitizing. Because disinfectants are harsher than sanitizers, they are not always safe for food contact surfaces.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all sanitizers and disinfectants. Here are some resources to help you clean, sanitize and disinfect your food establishment:

The virus causing COVID-19 requires disinfecting. Environmental Protection Agency approved list of disinfectants for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting

View an electronic copy of MDARD’s Clean, Sanitize, Disinfect poster.


What is your plan when it hits the fan?

Does your facility have a procedure in place to respond to a vomiting or diarrhea event? We’re not just talking about employee health -- what if a CUSTOMER has an accident in your food establishment?

If a bodily fluids incident happens, you should treat this as an emergency response. Have a written procedure in place, provide the proper equipment, and train your employees how to react quickly! Your procedure should address the specific actions employees should take to minimize the spread of the contamination and eliminate additional exposure to employees, consumers, food, and your facility. What should you do?

  • Have a designated container stocked with the necessary supplies so it can be quickly grabbed and used. Make sure employees are aware of where it is and how to use it.
  • Segregate the area, up to 25 feet in diameter if necessary.
  • Don disposable gloves, disposable apron, and a disposable face mask. Grab a trash bag and discard any food or single-service utensils that may have been contaminated. Keep in mind vomit and poop particles can aerosolize, especially if projectile. Gross, we know.
  • Clean up as much as possible with the paper towels.
  • Wipe the contaminated surfaces with a disinfectant specifically labeled as effective for Norovirus and paper towels, then let them air dry. Don’t forget door handles!
  • Discard everything in the trash bag and take it directly to the dumpster.
  • Wash, wash, wash your hands and forearms with hot, soapy water.

Effective clean-up of vomit and diarrhea in a food establishment should be handled differently from routine cleaning procedures and should involve a more stringent cleaning and disinfecting process. Some compounds routinely used for sanitizing food-contact surfaces and disinfecting countertops and floors, such as certain quaternary ammonium compounds, may not be effective against Norovirus. It is important for food establishments to use proper disinfectants for Norovirus at the proper concentration per manufacturer directions. View the list of EPA approved disinfectants.

The employee who cleaned up the disaster should be monitored for symptoms and excluded from work, if necessary. Norovirus can live on surfaces for up to five days if not properly cleaned up; and people who have norovirus can shed the virus and spread it to surfaces and other people for up to 14 days after they recover. That could take your whole workforce out!

Remember, it is an FDA 2009 Food Code requirement (2-201.11) if a food employee has been vomiting or has diarrhea, they must report it to the person in charge and the regulatory authority.

Proper Pest Control at Your Food Business

A food establishment’s first line of defense against pests is to eliminate any gateways into the facility. Use prevention measures to keep pests from entering the operation and control measures to eliminate those that may get inside.

A simple way to reduce entrance into your facility is to have tight-fitting (sealed) doors and windows with screens. It’s recommended that you periodically walk the perimeter of your establishment to look for any signs of pests. It’s especially important to look for any holes in the facility that may allow pest entry. If holes are found, they must be sealed. You should also check areas around your dumpster and eliminate weeds/overgrowth around your facility. These can be good places for pests to congregate. Once this has been completed it’s time to monitor for pests inside.

Check all deliveries and use only approved, reputable sources. Refuse any shipments that have pests or signs of pests. Signs of mice and/or rat infestation include gnawing, droppings and urine stains, nesting materials, and holes. Be sure to check for droppings around entry points and along the walls of your facility. Signs of roaches include a strong oily odor, droppings, and capsule-shaped egg cases that are brown, dark red, or black. Other pests to keep a look out for include meal moth worms. These pests can be found in various grains and pet food.

The best way to control and eliminate pests is to have a tightly sealed building, check incoming shipments, keep your facility clean and work closely with a licensed pest control operator. They will provide you personalized recommendations to keep pests in your facility at bay. If you choose to do your own in-house pest control, it’s critical for the applicator to follow all requirements found on the pesticide label. Certain pesticides are not allowed to be applied or even stored in a food establishment. If in doubt, the best practice is to contact a licensed professional pest control operator.

Sign up to Receive Email Updates!

Whenever a food safety or other public health issue arises MDARD has information to share with its food and dairy licensees. While the ‘snail mail’ process is costly to the state and can take up to two weeks, email is fast and economical.

To streamline the information sharing process, MDARD is expanding its email list of food licensees. To receive emails about program updates and emergency response efforts, or provide occasional feedback via customer service surveys, please copy and paste or type the link that pertains to your license type below into your web browser and provide your email address when prompted.

Retail Food Licensees (includes the following license types: FRF, FRE):

Manufacturing Food Licensees (includes the following license types: FFP, FLP, FFW, FMC, FMF, FST, FTM, FSF):