There’s nothing worse for a restaurant than to be unprepared when a surprise health inspection pops up. Health inspections, however, are a necessary and very important step in order to ensure that the establishment is following state and local regulations and is properly handling all food products. In this post, we’ll go over regulatory agencies and their role in the process, preparing for the actual health inspection, and what to do during and after the inspection.
At Nutri-Rific, we offer ServSafe online classes, including Food Manager Training, Food Handler Training, Allergens Training, and more, as well as mock health inspections to get real life experience from industry professionals. As you’re training to work in the foodservice industry, partner with Nutri-Rific for ServSafe online courses, both online and in person.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) as well as local and state health departments play the biggest role in enforcing food codes. The FDA oversees companies who produce, package, transport, and handle food and also establish food codes.
For example, Code 2-301.14 in the 2017 Food Code states that, “FOOD EMPLOYEES shall clean their hands and exposed portions of their arms as specified under §2-301.12 immediately before engaging in FOOD preparation including working with exposed FOOD, clean EQUIPMENT and UTENSILS, and unwrapped SINGLE-SERVICE and SINGLE-USE ARTICLES.”
Local state and municipal health departments monitor restaurants, bars, and grocery stores and enforces food codes.
Preparing For a Health Inspection
One of the best tools restaurants and food managers can use to help prepare for a health inspection is a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) plan, which outlines where in the cooking process the risk of contamination is the highest. Here are some other steps restaurant managers can take to help prepare:
- Look for safety issues throughout the restaurant, including cross-contamination, personal hygiene, and food temperature requirements.
- Contact your local health department and ask for specific regulations and forms that they will use during the inspection so you can proactively prepare.
- Health inspections can occur at any point, so to keep all restaurant employees prepared, conduct random inspections on your own.
- After your own inspection, go over the results with the employees and note any errors that were made and where improvements can be made.
- Conduct random quizzes to see how well employees would perform.
- Post health and safety regulation posters so they are visible to employees.
- Monitor food preparation and storage processes to ensure that your establishment and the employees are in compliance.
- Keep accurate records and documentation including temperature logs, equipment service dates, and supplier shipping invoices and specification sheets.
- Sign up with Nutri-Rific for a mock health inspection to go through the entire process with industry professionals who have completed inspections themselves.
Dos and Don’ts of the Actual Health Inspection
- Ask to verify the inspector’s identification and credentials.
- Follow the inspector throughout the process and when possible, fix any violations on the spot.
- When the inspection is complete, sign the report to verify that you have received a copy.
- If you have any questions about violations or the score, ask them right away.
- Never refuse to let the inspector complete the health inspection, they can get an inspection warrant in order to complete the inspection.
- Be polite with the inspector, but don’t offer them food or drink as this may be misunderstood as wanting to bribe the inspector for a better score.
After the Health Inspection
- Depending on which state your establishment is located, the health inspection score will either be a letter- or points-based system. The score is generally provided at the end of the inspection.
- The points-based scoring has four categories: good, adequate, needs improvement, and poor.
- The letter-based system has three possible scores: A, B, and C.
If you received any low- or high-risk violations, there are some steps you can take to fix the violations.
- Fix any issues and schedule another inspection within five and 30 days.
- Determine how and why each violation occurred and establish methods and processes to prevent them from happening in the future.
- You can appeal a violation if there is a reason to disagree.
Preparing for and earning a high score on a health inspection starts with thorough training and detailed processes outlining proper food handling, temperature control, steps for preventing cross-contamination, and steps for keeping restaurant spaces clean at all times.
If you want additional training, or want to work in the foodservice industry in the future, sign up with Nutri-Rific for food safety classes and more. We offer ServSafe online courses that provide the tools and resources you need for a successful career.