Things Health Inspectors Look For
The health inspector is not there to shut a restaurant down. He or she is there to both enforce local food codes and educate staff on proper food handling practices. Listed below are some of the things an inspector will scrutinize when examining your restaurant.
Critical items are those that are directly related to foodborne illness. Many counties denote these as “red” items on inspection sheets. Here are some examples of critical items:
- Observe proper handwashing » Learn More
- Make sure food is coming from an approved source
- Ensure cooked foods are rapidly chilled in appropriate amount of time » Learn More
- Check to make sure commercial dishwashers have the correct sanitizer concentration
- Assure there has been no cross-contamination between raw and cooked or ready to serve products » Learn More
Non-critical items are those that are not directly related to foodborne illnesses, but can become serious problems if not corrected. These are items are usually denoted as “blue” items on an inspection sheet. Here are some examples of non-critical items:
- Labeled food storage containers
- Current operator permit
- Properly calibrated meat thermometers
- Floors, walls and ceilings properly cleaned
- Employee changing or break area is separate from kitchen
Health inspectors pay special attention to potentially hazardous foods. These foods require precise time and temperature maintenance to prevent bacterial grown and food related illnesses. The health inspector will meticulously check cooking, holding and storage temperatures of all your meat, poultry, seafood and ready made food products to assure that they are at safe temperatures. They will also ask to see your records to assure you are doing the same.
Restaurant owners are required to know their local health codes in order to operate a commercial food establishment. Management staff must have up-to-date training on food safety practices, and employees must demonstrate knowledge of safe food handling and preparation. The inspector will ask questions to test this knowledge.
When employees are sick, do not let them continue to handle and prepare food. Send them home, or put them on a task where they are not handling food or utensils. Person to person contact is a leading cause of foodborne illness, and sick employees can easily transfer their germs to your customers, no matter how cautious the workers may be.
If an outbreak is linked to a sick employee, the health department has the authority to check the worker’s medical records and take samples in an effort to pinpoint an exact cause. Sometimes, an entire restaurant can be closed until every employee receives a clean bill of health and the restaurant is sterilized, so it is better all around to send one sick employee home for a couple of days.
Note: This article is a generalization of the health inspection process. Please reference your local Food Code or health department for specific governing rules and procedures.
More from Product Safety & Public Health...
- Germs that Cause Food Poisoning
- Food Safety Temperatures and The Danger Zone
- Preventing Foodborne Illness
- Preventing Cross-Contamination
- The Importance of Handwashing
- 6 Food Quality Control Tips for Restaurants
- Health Inspection Basics
- General Health Inspection Grading
- Preparing Your Restaurant for a Health Inspection
- What To Do During a Restaurant Inspection
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