What You Need To Know About Health Code Inspections
With some states relaxing quarantine restrictions, many restaurants find themselves opening up, not only to the public, but also to the chance of impromptu inspections. Because health code inspections can have a serious impact on your business, it’s important to reflect on common violations and how you can best protect the reputation of your food service establishment.
Common Health Code Violations
Some of the most common issues end up being the ones hidden in plain sight:
- Personal Hygiene: How clean are your employees and how well are they following sanitation protocols? Ensure hair coverings and gloves are worn (and changed) as required, handwashing standards are being met, and items and surfaces are disinfected effectively.
- Cross Contamination: Your chef just went from placing ground beef on the grill to cutting lettuce without washing his hands. This is a classic example of a health code violation. It’s an easy mistake to make, but one with potentially huge repercussions.
- Time and Temperature: Products that are not stored properly risk the chance of time and temperature abuse, which can pose serious harm to your customers.
- Storage and Use of Chemicals: When it comes to chemicals like cleansing agents, how they are used and where they are stored is sometimes considered an afterthought. Know that these details will be noted by a health inspector. Always follow listed directions to determine the right concentration for your facility and store all chemicals away from food.
Preparing For a Health Inspection
The health district conducts unannounced inspections of food establishments at least once a year, and it can happen when you least expect it. Because of this, it’s best to be prepared for any situation.
Here are some steps you can take:
- Review Past Inspections: Taking a look through past inspection reports can highlight current inconsistencies. Does your facility have a history of problematic areas? Speak with your employees about focusing on these issues.
- Prepare Your Staff: If you suspect an upcoming health code inspection, meet with your staff to let them know. Revisit checklists to identify any weak points in your system. Encourage them to maintain best practices and remain as proactive as possible. Create a plan of action that involves optimal cleanliness and food safety maintenance that will allow you pass the inspection with flying colors.
- See From Your Customers’ Perspective: Remove the tunnel-vision focus of back end operations and see your facility from the eyes of a consumer. Is the dining area clean? Can dietary allergies be efficiently accommodated? Would you return to this location? Viewing your establishment objectively will allow you to identify issues you might have been overlooked.
- Partner With a Food Safety Advisor: With a skillset specifically designed to assess food service facilities and prep them for potential inspections, food safety consultants offer a valuable ability to identify and correct any potential issues prior to a health code inspection.
Know What They’re Looking For
Being aware of what a health code inspector is looking for can be an important aspect to avoiding violations altogether.
- Certified Food Protection Manager: According to the 2017 FDA Food Code, every food establishment should have a Certified Food Protection Manager present during all operating hours. This individual will be the inspector’s point of contact, and should be knowledgeable about all processes and logs kept at the facility. They will also be expected to lead the inspector through each area of the facility and take notes of all violations that need to be corrected.
- Critical and Non-Critical Violations: Critical violations are categorized as those that pose a high risk to food safety, likely causing foodborne illness, such as improper handwashing or holding of food. Non-critical violations may include lesser risks such as a lack of required hairnets or needed repairs.
- Imminent Health Hazards: Hazards that pose an extreme and immediate risk to food safety and would likely cause the required shutdown of an establishment are considered imminent. Mandatory establishment closures are carried out until the regulatory authority approves of all necessary corrections or changes. Imminent health hazards included power outage, sewage backup, lack of hot water, etc.
After An Inspection
Upon obtaining your inspection report, it is crucial to fix all violations within a timely manner. Some will be correctable immediately, while others may require a re-inspection to verify completion.
Once you’ve corrected each violation (and, if required, finalized a re-inspection), it’s important to share results with your staff and train them accordingly to ensure negative habits are not repeated. Immediately correct any potential violations to break any problematic cycles that may impact you in future inspections.
Sense an impending health code inspection? Avert can help!
Our team of certified individuals have over 20 years of experience in the food service and commercial food manufacturing industries. Our initial inspection serves to assess any areas of improvement, which allows us to create a food safety plan customized to your needs. We provide full-scale refinement of your processes, comprehensive training for your employees, and solid protection of your brand.
Learn how we can help you Prevent, Correct and Protect by visiting our website.
Matthew McClure provides sound strategies that instill cost-effective methods for building robust food safety, operational and quality assurance programs. Along with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Microbiology from The University of Akron and an MBA in Finance from Louisiana State University, Matthew brings over 20 years of experience in the food safety industry to AVERT Food Safety Advisors. His knowledge spans many areas including FDA food processing facilities, USDA meat and poultry plants, dietary supplement manufacturers, retail, cannabis manufacturing, and food service operations.
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