What is the process of health inspections?
Although different countries may have differing regulations regarding public health inspections, there are some things you can count on no matter your location. An inspector from the health department is authorized to visit any venue at any time without warning and they must inspect your establishment at least once annually (usually every six months), plus any time there are complaints filed.
Before inviting anyone into your kitchen, be sure to verify their credentials. In some cases, people have impersonated safety and health inspectors; if you feel suspicious of their behavior, contact your local health department for further verification. Your staff should also be trained in following in your footsteps if you aren’t present when making decisions.
What are the primary elements a health inspector looks for during an inspection?
Local health departments typically post their food inspection criteria online. You may even find a checklist you can download to assist in conducting inspections.
An inspector will check your food to make sure it’s free from contamination. This means keeping raw foods separate from ready-to-eat items and ingredients stored in food grade containers with tight fitting lids. Storing any questionable items such as cleaning chemicals or personal belongings near food can lead to serious problems.
How will your business get marked down?
Food that has not been properly protected. Storerooms that are too close to where food is kept. Incorrect containers. Foods should not have expiration dates on them.
- Your menu descriptions are misleading (e.g., you don’t mention nuts).
- Preparing ready-to-eat food should not be done by employees who don’t wear gloves.
- Cleaning products should be stored together with food in your pantry;
- You are storing table linens and utensils in an inappropriate place.
- Food handlers should keep their cell phones close by while preparing food (on countertops or cutting boards).
- Raw ingredients may be stored under dripping meat in your fridge; additionally, pests may lurk within these storage units.
Food poisoning is often due to ingredients not being stored at safe temperatures. Inspectors spend a great deal of time checking the temperature and storage locations of your food items.
They will also request evidence of regular temperature checking and details regarding temperature measuring devices.
How will your business get marked down?
- Unsafe internal temperatures can cause food spoilage.
- Dangerous foods were left out in the open with no temperature control applied.
- Temperature control wasn’t used to protect display foods either.
- Temperatures in storage areas may not be the correct temperature
Incorrect heating procedures could also be an issue; employees could be asked by inspectors what temperature they cooked their food at and how long it was reheated for confirmation that it reached 165degF or 73.8degC.
Refrigerators alone won’t do the trick (for instance, if you use a domestic refrigerator).
Temperature-checking logs and temperature measuring devices may not be available on-site; after delivery of food items that weren’t refrigerated, customers were left out without refrigeration and partially thawed frozen meals were accepted instead.
Handwashing is a relatively straightforward step if you follow proper food safety regulations and guidelines. Yet many establishments fail to pass health inspections due to not having adequate handwashing facilities available.
Inspectors will also check your food handlers to make sure they are following proper hygiene practices when cooking. That means no dirty aprons!
How will you get marked down?
- Food handlers who do not possess a food safety certificate typically exhibit dirty clothes and untied hair.
- Smoking is also commonplace in kitchens.
- Food handlers with open wounds or rashes should not handle food.
- Once preparation begins, food handlers often don’t wash their hands. There is no designated area for handwashing and warm running water isn’t available either.
- Your handwashing station is too far from your food preparation areas and lacks liquid soap or disposable paper towels, meaning you have to throw them away.
- Unfortunately, the handwashing station has been blocked off.
- You can also utilize the handwashing basin for cleaning utensils and other objects.
A dirty kitchen breeds bacteria. Clean all surfaces – floors, walls, ceilings and fittings – thoroughly. Moreover, make sure all food waste is properly disposed of.
How will you know if there’s an issue?
- Look for grease or dirt on floors, walls and benches.
- Food waste accumulation on benches, inside fryers and ovens – and other cooking equipment – could indicate a problem.
- Additionally, look out for signs of vermin or insects as well.
- Unfortunately, your municipality lacks proper garbage disposal facilities and bags are left on the streets.
- Garbage pickup is irregular.
Waste accumulation occurs in food storage areas such as cool rooms where proper ventilation may not be present, leading to smoke, fumes and steam buildup in the kitchen.
Your business puts public health at risk if kitchen staff handle food that’s sick. According to the CDC, 20% of food workers admitted to working more than one shift when sick due to not knowing about sick leave policies. This statistic should not apply to your venue.
To ensure you understand the potential repercussions of employees becoming ill while on duty, a health inspector may ask you questions regarding foodborne diseases.
How will your work be evaluated?
Signs that your staff may be handling food while you are ill include:
- When you inquire about your hygiene and health standards, staff often have no idea.
- Your kitchen lacks adequate lighting, leading to an unpleasant situation.