ALPHARETTA, GA -- The National Automatic Merchandising Association reports that a question has arisen concerning the length of time for which potentially hazardous foods can be held in a refrigerated vending machine in order to comply with Georgia regulations. Accordingly, NAMA and the Georgia Automatic Merchandising Council have issued a special technical bulletin to members.
Confusion can arise because operators sell three types of "potentially hazardous" food: products they prepare in their own commissaries, similar items they purchase from a third party, and foods they procure in frozen state from commercial suppliers for defrosting and sale through refrigerated machines.
Another potential source of confusion is that regulations covering such foods have been issued by both the Georgia Department of Human Resources and Georgia Department of Agriculture. The bulletin excerpts the relevant rules, which are published in the state's Department of Human Resources Public Health Chapter 290-5-14: Food Service and Georgia Department of Agriculture Regulation 40-7-1.26.
Based on these rules and on information from the Food & Drug Administration's division of retail food, the report recommends that all freshly prepared food from an operating company commissary should carry an expiration date of seven days from its date of preparation, as should freshly prepared product from a third party. If that third party supplies food in reduced-oxygen packaging, then the supplier's recommended expiration date should be displayed. Commercially prepared frozen foods that are potentially hazardous should be date-coded according to the manufacturer's expiration dates for each item offered for sale.
"Improved packaging methods have been in use for some time by commercial sandwich-makers, allowing them to provide you with extended shelf-life product," the bulletin adds. "Ask your product supplier representative for more specific information."
Further information can be requested from Brian Allen or Larry Eils at NAMA headquarters. Call (312) 346-0370.