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Purchasing Food Shields and NSF

Content sponsored
by: BSI

NSF standards are nothing new when it comes to food shields. What is new, are updates to the standards. Here is a look at the new standards and some placement guidelines for food shields.

CCL ServeryWhen purchasing food shields for an operation, it is important to ensure that these products meet National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) standards.

NSF Standard 2 for food shields, which was issued in March 2008 and went into effect on Dec. 31, 2010, updates the design and construction requirements for this equipment. The main goal of the new regulations is to protect unpackaged food from contamination while considering accessibility and safety requirements.

NSF Standard 2 states, “A food shield shall provide a barrier between the mouth of the customer and unpackaged food to minimize the potential of contamination of the food by a customer.”

Self-Serve Food Shield
Cooking / Carving Station Partition
Cafeteria Style Food Shield

Previously, there were no requirements for food guard end panels. With the new regulation, “all food shields shall have an end panel at each end of the food shield. The end panel shall be a minimum of 18 inches deep from the leading edge of the front glass panel. The minimum height of the end panel shall be equal to the overall height of the food shield. The gap from the bottom of the end panel to the counter shall not be greater than 1½ inches. End panels are not required if a food shield is installed within 3 feet of a wall.

NSF requires food shields used in front of carving stations to include a vertical barrier that is at least 60 inches above the finished floor. The opening below this barrier cannot be more than 6 inches. The distance between the food shield and food needs to be at least three-fourths the opening distance. In the past, NSF guidelines did not distinguish between a self-serve food shield or cafeteria service/full-serve food shields. Standard 2 distinguishes between these two types.

With self-serve food shields, the opening between the glass and counter should not be more than 13 inches, as opposed to 14 inches in the past. In addition, the sum of the food shield’s protected horizontal plane and protected vertical plane should be greater than or equal to 20 inches. This is a change from the previous regulations, which required an 18-inch distance.

The new regulations require the maximum gap between glass sections to be 2 inches on these units. The minimum distance from the food shield’s bottom leading edge and front inside edge of displayed food should be three-fourths of the distance of the opening, a change from the 7-inch minimum.

Full-serve shields/cafeteria-style protectors require the sum of its protected horizontal plane and protected vertical plane to be greater than or equal to 32 inches. The maximum gap between the front panel and top shelf is ¾ inches, while the maximum gap between the counter and front panel bottom is 1½ inches. The minimum distance between the food being served and front panel is 1½ inches. End panels are required for shields not within 3 inches of a wall.

Standard 2 requires the lower tier on multiple tier food shields/display cases to conform to the standards of a self-serve guard. All tiers above the bottom tier must have a permanent label attached restricting use to wrapped or prepackaged food.

Be aware that state health departments determine which of the above guidelines will be enforced.
To learn more visit NAFEM booth 629 or go to