In order to keep patrons safe and ensure restaurants employ safe food handling procedures and conditions, the FDA sets food codes that local and national governments enforce via health inspections.
Health inspections are widely considered one of a restaurateur’s biggest nightmares, but they don’t have to be! With consistent preparation and safe food handling practices your restaurant can be prepared and in tip-top shape.
How to prepare for a health inspection
Health inspections happen at random and as often as one to four times per year. In order to properly prepare, your restaurant needs to be health inspection-ready every day. Here is a list of things you can do to make sure you’re ready for whenever a health inspector arrives.
- Read up on local and national health codes. While national health codes apply to all restaurants within the country, it’s important to keep up-to-date on local health codes as well as these can vary from place to place.
- Random, regular self-inspections. Health inspectors can show up at any time, so it’s important that you’re always ready. Random elf-inspections keep your employees inspection-ready all the time.
- Quiz employees on safety procedures. Ask your employees safety questions about the tasks they’re carrying out. This ensures they know what they are doing and how to do it, while maintaining food safety. Inspectors are likely to ask employees questions during an inspection, so it’s great practice and an invaluable learning opportunity.
- Instate frequent, regular handwashing. Handwashing is one of the most important practices for anyone working in food service. It reduces the dangers of cross contamination as well as the spread of germs and bacteria. Make sure employees are washing their hands frequently, including every time a new set of gloves is put on and especially after handling contaminating foods such as raw meat.
- Make sure employees (especially managers) are kept up to date on health codes and practice. Keep up-to-date on changes and additions to health codes, and whenever any changes are made, print out a physical copy of the new rules for your employees to read through. If you want to pass your health inspection, all employees are going to need to be aware of even the most recent changes in food handling policies.
What health inspectors are looking for
- Proper handwashing with soap
- Food coming from an approved source
- Food is stored at appropriate temperatures and handled properly
- Chemical cleaners and sanitizers have the correct concentration
- Labeled food storage containers
- Walls, floors, and ceilings properly cleaned
- Properly calibrated meat thermometers
- Break room separate from kitchen
- Current and valid operator permit
Potentially Hazardous Foods: Inspectors will check foods to make sure they are at the correct temperatures and safe to eat. They will also gong back through your log to make sure you’re being consistent.
Employee Knowledge: The inspector will ask employees questions regarding food handling, food safety and preparation. Employees must demonstrate their up-to-date knowledge on these practices.
Employee Health: When an employee falls ill, that employee can NOT be working anywhere near food. Assign them to another task away from food or utensils, or send the sick party home to prevent customers or other employees from becoming ill.
What to do during a health inspection
The time has come, and the inspector is here. There’s nothing more you can do, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to sit back and relax. An inspection is a great learning experience, and if you want to do even better next time, it’s important to pay attention and learn from any mistakes.
- Verify credentials. It’s always important to check to make sure your inspector is who they say they are (just in case). The inspector should offer their credentials to you without you asking, but if they don’t make sure to call your local health department to double check. You don’t want anyone to scam any business information.
- Follow the inspector to observe violations firsthand. Go along with the inspector as they grade your restaurant. Make sure to note any violations they notice.
- Correct the violations you can. Even if a violation is already spotted, it can leave a good impression if you correct it. During an inspection, feel free to remind your employees to wash their hands or to put on gloves before proceeding with a certain task. If food or drink is spotted in the back of house, make sure to throw it away. This shows the inspector that you and your employees will comply with necessary changes.
- Ask questions. If you’re not sure why something was considered a violation, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. You can’t learn to do better if you’re not even sure what you did wrong in the first place.
What to do after a health inspection
The inspection may be over, but your job isn’t finished. You need to take what you learned and apply it to your restaurant to make it the cleanest and safest it can be.
Go over any violations with your staff and help them understand what was wrong and how to handle those situations correctly.
After you’ve corrected all of your violations, you are able to reschedule another health inspection with 5-45 days of the first inspection. This will keep your ratings up and prevent you from seeing any drop in sales.
Call us today at 402.331.3243 for a FREE, no-obligation analysis with one of our food service specialists to see how much you could save!