Food Digest - August 2016


August 2016



Food Digest is a quarterly newsletter written by inspectors from your local health department to support and educate Hennepin County food facility owners and managers about food safety as recommended by Minnesota Food Code 4626.



Keep food protected from contamination

When food is being self-served or stored at an outdoor stand, it needs to be protected from contamination (in addition to the stand tent/roofing). This could include a dome shaped cover, lids for food containers, tin foil, plastic wrap, a sneeze guard, etc. This will help to prevent insects from landing on food and debris from falling in food. It also provides protection from coughing, sneezing, hair, etc.

Check out our short-term food license application for helpful guidelines and a self-inspection checklist.


We welcome comments or ideas about our newsletter. 

Amy Zagar

Hannah Marschinke

Food source to food waste

Farm field
Large buffet

Individually licensed food establishments handle food through only a small piece of the greater food supply chain – typically at retail. However, food can potentially become contaminated at any stage of production from farm to table. It is for this reason that a retail establishment must obtain food from an approved source that uses approved methods. There are a few key aspects to verifying that food is unadulterated and approved for retail.

mn equal to

Food is required to be labeled with an identification, including the contents/ingredients and the address where it was produced.

USDA meat stamps; Source: University of Minnesota-Extension


Meat must be inspected and stamped by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Equal To program.

*State of Minnesota shaped stamp above is an MDA meat stamp; Source: University of Minnesota-Extension.

Traceability is also an important aspect of verifying products through the food supply chain using records such as lot numbers, dates, and invoices. This is particularly helpful in recall situations or epidemiological investigations. Product records should be kept concurrently with lots in inventory to maintain traceability. Food that is unlabeled or found to have an untraceable source must be rejected.

Verification of the food temperature upon receiving is an important step to ensuring food that could be hazardous is safe to eat.  This means refrigerated foods must arrive no warmer than 41°F and must quickly be stored in mechanical refrigeration below 41°F. For exceptions to this requirement, refer to the Minnesota Department of Health’s fact sheet on receiving. The person assigned to this duty also needs to check for intact food packaging and reject any food that has been adulterated.  Note: because MN Rule 4626 specifically indicates mechanical refrigeration, ice is not approved for cold storage:


Except during preparation, cooking, or cooling, or when time is used as the public health control as specified in part 4626.0410, potentially hazardous food shall be maintained:

A. at 60 degrees C (140 degrees F) or above, except that roasts cooked to a temperature and for a time specified in part 4626.0340, item B, may be held at a temperature of 54 degrees C (130 degrees F);


B. at 5 degrees C (41 degrees F) or below under mechanical refrigeration, except as specified in part 4626.0405, item B.

Expiration Date? “Best Before” or “Use By” dates generally refer to the best quality and are not safety dates, with the exception of infant formula. If foods are mishandled foodborne bacteria can grow and, if pathogens are present, cause foodborne illness. This can occur before or after the date on the package. For example, if hot dogs are taken to a picnic and left out several hours, they will not be safe if used thereafter, even if the date hasn't expired. Date marking in food establishments is required on all refrigerated potentially hazardous foods that will be held for more than 24 hours. More information on date marking requirements can be found on the Minnesota Department of Health's website.

Food scraps

Waste not, want not. Food can also be lost or wasted at any stage of the food supply chain, though in North America it is more often lost at retail or consumption than in agriculture or distribution (FAO, 2011). Energy embedded in wasted food represents approximately 2.5% of annual energy consumption in the United States, so a reduction in waste will be energy saved. Food loss also contributes to excessive water consumption, pollution, and decreased biodiversity. Local programs in Minnesota, such as Hennepin County Organics Recycling, aim to separate energy-rich organics like food scraps from municipal waste streams. Coupled with reducing our consumption of single-use items, recycling and composting will lead to major fuel and energy savings.

The Tax Reform Act of 1976 has allowed tax deduction for the base cost plus half potential profits for food donated to charitable organizations. Since 1996, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Recovery Act has released liability from suppliers opting to donate food in an effort to redistribute and repurpose that which would otherwise be wasted. For more information on food waste reduction, check out the links below:

Environmental Protection Agency:

National Restaurant Association Guide:

Food Waste Reduction Alliance:

Metro Food Access Network:

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Improper trash storage could mean insects and rodents


No one wants mice, rats or insects invading their restaurant. When the weather is warm, however, these critters are out in full swing. It’s an important time to remind all employees in the food establishment how to keep them out. The first step it to keep the outdoor trash, recycle and grease bin covers closed after use.

Trash and recycling areas need to be cleaned often and free of unnecessary debris or clutter. Rodents and insects find cluttered trash areas ideal for shelter. Usually the outdoor trash area is near the food establishment. If conditions are right, rodents and insects may then travel to the source of the food through open doors, holes, or cracks in the building.


Outdoor trash, recycle and grease bin lids need to be kept closed


In addition to keeping the lids closed and the trash area clean and clutter free, all receptacles must also be durable, cleanable and nonabsorbent. Check for holes in lids, rusted areas on the receptacle or other wear and tear to prevent trash leakage and places where rodents and insects can gain access.

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    Ordinance reminder


    Remodeling or upgrading components of your food establishment? Maybe adding some new equipment? Many times these projects need to go through Hennepin County's plan review process. A plan review application can be found on our website.

    If you are unsure if you need to apply for plan review, contact our office to speak to an inspector (612-543-5200).

    Hennepin County Food Ordinance 3


    5.2 Plan Submission. The license applicant or licensee shall submit properly prepared plans to the Health Authority under the provisions of Minnesota Rules, Chapter 4626.1720. The plans, specifications, application, and plan review fee shall be submitted to the Health Authority at least 30 days before beginning construction or remodeling.

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    Web resources

    Visit for information on:

    • General environmental health
    • Basic food safety classes
    • Temporary food stand licensing
    • Food license information, categories, and fee schedule
    • New construction or remodeling application

    Radon information and test kits 

    Septic system requirements and procedures

    Body art licensing information (tattooing and piercing) 

    Beaches in Hennepin County

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