The so-called sanitation score, which customers use to make dining-out decisions, is actually based on risk.  Actually, some items on this sanitation score pose very little risk with consumers, but cause a great irritation with restaurant owners.  One item is the concern over employee beverages.  As a customer ordering a beverage, few people have ever even thought about those working to prepare your food, or what they drink during their shift.  After all, it’s a simple drink, right?  “Who dares to take my hydration pack away better be ready for a lawsuit because I am one with this water, and I therefore also identify as water.”  This may be an exaggeration, but truthfully, if you refuse to leave your reusable water bottle, you may also be excused from a job in food service.


The controversy:  An employee (who works in food service) beverage must have a drink with a lid, and WITH A STRAW, that is stored on the bottom shelf away from food.  Most take this as gospel carved in stone within the NC laws.  However, if straws go away (personally I’m really unsure how this will turn out), nurses on payroll will be required to get mid-shift IV fluids at the pizza station every night.

So, for restaurants to be in compliance with the health department, what options are available to allow their employees to have one drink of water within an 8 hour shift?

To begin, a few examples of the “strawless” movement sweeping the nation.

  • Disney is eliminating plastic straws and plastic stirrers in all Disney owned locations by the middle of next year, 2019.I guess their staff will be dropping in the unbreathable Florida summers (like the mosquito I killed in my bathroom yesterday with an entire can of bug spray with the door shut).  For the record, both myself and summer Disney-ites are constantly lightheaded as a result of committing to what must be done.
  • Starbucks is eliminating all straws worldwide, except for Seattle.
  • Seattle, feeling confident after having recently asserted their independence from under Starbucks’ rule, is also ditching straws city wide to show Starbucks it can do its own thing without permission.
  • McDonald’s is doing away with straws in the UK.But, being Brits, they take pride in being proper and if you’ve ever seen a 7/11 Big Gulp, well, this is certainly beneath them.  And, it’s hard to drink hot tea from a straw and therefore I’m surprised there are even straws over there at all.

Actual requirements often become lost within the formal language used within the rules and regulations themselves.  To be honest the language used in our NC Food Code Manual is in stark contrast to the far too complicated legal jargon in which most laws are written.  However, the grey areas still seem to persist and, hopefully, this might clear up some questions as far as what kind of personal beverages and where they are allowed in food service operations.

Verbatim rule  in the NC Food Code Manual in which Health Inspectors are required to check:


(B)  A FOOD EMPLOYEE may drink from a closed BEVERAGE container if the container is handled to prevent contamination of:

(1)  The EMPLOYEE’S hands;

(2) The container; and



Solution in plain language for food service

  • Keep it real freakin’ simple and follow the following:
    • When taking a sip or full-on chug, if the employee has to touch their beverage with their hands (assuming most do), in the same spot where their mouth may have also touched, then this beverage is not allowed and would be in an improper container.
    • If one places a personal beverage in which one’s own spit, backwash, or thereby any communicable disease, REMOTELY CLOSE to ANYTHING which may go to a customer, then this is not allowed and would be considered improper storage.
  • Keepin’ it even simpler than the simpler statement above:

Nowhere in the NC Food Code does it state the beverage must be stored on the bottom shelf, just away from one’s own personal saliva or “generic spit”; and, as long as the drink is in the right container, and stored away from our own nastiness, the nastiness of other folks we work with, and potentially nasty food, then we are good to go.