New Food Safety Legislation Takes Effect in Texas

by Ella


These legislative changes are part of a broader array of new laws that will impact the restaurant industry in Texas, with major themes focusing on regulatory consistency, reduced permit fees, clearer health codes, property tax relief, and workforce development. Kelsey Erickson Streufert, Chief Public Affairs Officer of the Texas Restaurant Association, emphasized their determination to deliver immediate relief and long-term security for the entire foodservice industry, ensuring its continued growth and prosperity.


In these challenging times, the implementation of these new laws is set to usher in a brighter future for Texas restaurants and the millions of Texans who rely on them.


The 88th Texas Legislature has ushered in a new era for food establishments in the Lone Star State with the implementation of two significant bills that promise to reshape the landscape of food service regulation. These legislative changes are poised to have a positive impact on the approximately 55,000 food service establishments operating in Texas, which collectively employ over 1.4 million Texans and serve communities across the state.


The Texas Restaurant Association has lauded these new laws as a welcome step forward, highlighting their potential for streamlining regulations, reducing costs, and enhancing the overall customer experience within the industry.


At the heart of these changes is the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), which has articulated a clear goal: to prevent foodborne illnesses in Texas. The DSHS emphasizes that achieving this objective necessitates collaboration from all stakeholders, including public health regions, state and federal agencies, local and city health departments, private industry, and the general public. Their mission statement underscores the importance of safeguarding public health through the effective operation of a comprehensive retail food protection program. This program focuses on education, training, and oversight with the ultimate aim of reducing the potential for foodborne illnesses across Texas.

“This new era of food safety is of paramount importance in Texas,” the DSHS emphasized.

Here’s an overview of each of the newly enacted bills:

SB 577 — Local Food Regulations and the Local Food Regulation Registry

Senate Bill 577 brings much-needed clarity to food establishments and licensing authorities regarding the enforceability of health regulations. Key provisions include:

The establishment of a registry by DSHS for local health ordinances or regulations that deviate from state law or DSHS rules. Local enforcement can commence only after the local public health entity submits applicable local health ordinances or regulations to the DSHS registry.

Limitations on the collection of licensing fees by counties or municipalities that are part of a public health district for alcoholic beverage sales and certified food manager (CFM) certificates under specific circumstances.

An exemption from penalizing retail food establishments for failing to meet easily cleanable surface requirements for certain areas within the establishment, with exceptions for surfaces directly related to food preparation or consumption.

The prohibition of restrictions by local public health entities and DSHS on the type or quantity of packaging, utensils, or straws provided to customers by licensees, subject to Food Code requirements for food-contact surfaces.

DSHS is actively working to establish the process for municipalities to submit ordinances or regulations deviating from the Texas Food Establishment Rules or state law. Local public health entities must comply with these new regulations as of September 1.

SB 812 — Food Allergen Awareness

Senate Bill 812, known as the “Sergio Lopez Food Allergy Awareness Act,” focuses on enhancing food allergy awareness among food service employees and managers. Key provisions include:

A requirement for every food service establishment to display a food allergy awareness poster in an accessible area for employees. This poster must provide information about allergic reactions to food allergens, symptoms, a list of major food allergens as determined by the FDA, and appropriate responses to individuals experiencing allergic reactions.

The development of a model poster by DSHS by December 2023, which will be made available on their website.

Mandatory compliance by food establishments by September 1, 2024.

Inclusion of food allergen awareness in DSHS-accredited certified food manager and food handler training and examinations for certificates issued or renewed on or after September 1, 2024.

The legislation also imposes restrictions on local jurisdictions, preventing them from adopting or enforcing measures inconsistent with these requirements.

Emily Williams Knight, President, and CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association expressed gratitude for these regulatory changes, acknowledging the challenges the foodservice industry has faced, particularly during the pandemic. She emphasized the importance of government efficiency and planning for future growth in ensuring the resilience and success of Texas restaurants.

In recent times, Texas restaurants have grappled with a decline in dine-in customers due to extreme heat, with seated diner traffic decreasing by 3 to 5 percent compared to the previous summer. Simultaneously, food and labor costs have surged by more than 20 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels. Therefore, the introduction of regulatory relief, cost-saving measures, and tools to enhance the customer experience is a timely lifeline for Texas re



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