Restaurants are expected to adhere to different sets of guidelines and inspections. One of which is the restaurant health inspection, which is the most critical requirement that you need to pass to keep your business operative.
As a business that involves food handling and preparation, it’s just natural for you to make sure that every health and safety protocol is being implemented. Passing this type of inspection is your way of giving assurance to your customers that you value their health and safety.
This process could be a bit intimidating on your part as an owner. But if you’re taking proper safety measures and ensuring that everyone on your staff is well trained for food safety, then this should be a piece of cake for you.
To help ease your concerns regarding this procedure, we’ve compiled the most effective ways you can prepare for it. Read along to know more about what are the things you should do to ace your next inspection.
Health Inspection in Restaurants
In essence, it refers to inspecting your restaurant, your staff, and your food products for possible hazardous and unsafe materials. In most cases, the health officers or inspectors of the local health department take care of this.
For takeaways, caterers, or other food businesses from home, inspections are conducted by environmental health officers or health inspectors to ensure that your operations carry out food safety regulations.
It is conducted to make sure that your restaurant, takeaway, or other food business is observing food safety management. The assigned health inspectors must follow their Food Law Code practice to conduct this process properly.
What to Expect Before a Health Inspection in Your Restaurant?
Well, there’s no telling what the assigned health inspectors will do first during their inspection. Even if you’re an experienced restaurateur who has some knowledge regarding the process, or you’re just getting started, you can always benefit from further knowledge.
Inspections of this kind are random and unannounced. It is important to stay calm and composed if a health inspector visits your restaurant. It’s best to provide them with the required paperwork, most likely they’ll ask for your food safety licenses as well as other permits.
Inspections from licensed health inspectors are something you cannot and should not refuse. During the inspection, you might want to follow the inspectors to answer any questions they have and to make a note of anything they find.
Tip: Always check their credentials and make sure they are legally authorized to carry out health and safety inspections at your location.
What to do During a Health Inspection in Your Restaurant?
Aside from allowing the inspection to take place and compliance with the requirements of your assigned health inspectors, here’s a list of what to do during a food health and safety inspection.
- Verify the credentials of the health inspector or officer.
- Follow the inspector around and observe.
- Keep your manners cordial, but keep anything that can be misconstrued as bribery out of your hand.
- Signature and acknowledgment of the inspection report.
- Feel free to ask questions or request clarifications about their findings.
What to Expect After a Health Inspection in Your Restaurant?
Here’s a list of what you should expect from your local health officer after they conduct restaurant food and health inspections.
- Report back to you the findings and the results of their inspection.
- Provide information about current food legislation, best practices, and recommendations for food safety management.
- Explain why you were asked to take certain actions. Provide written evidence.
- Give your restaurant a reasonable timeframe in which you can comply and meet the requirements. (Unless an immediate threat to public health is present)
- Provide you with information regarding the appeal procedures against local health authority decisions.
How often are Food and Health Inspections in Restaurants?
Health inspectors can conduct inspections anytime. Their frequency of visits will be determined by the level of factors in your restaurant that are potentially harmful to public health.
Health inspections are typically conducted every six months, regardless of whether the local health authority receives a complaint.
The first visit will vary based on what type of business you operate, then your next visit will depend on your first health inspection. A business is scored from A-E according to the Food Law Code of Practice to determine whether it poses a high or low risk to public health.
- A = inspection at least every 6 months
- B = inspection at least every 12 months
- C = inspection at least every 18 months
- D = inspection at least every 2 years
- E = inspection at least every 3 years
Moreover, health inspections are typically not announced. So your restaurant staff and your operations must follow best practices that comply with food safety regulations and laws.
Ways to Prepare for a Health Inspection in Your Restaurant
To successfully pass the next health inspection in your restaurant, here are some of the following practices you should consider.
Ensure you have a restaurant health inspection checklist
To begin with, you must provide a checklist to your restaurant staff to make sure that they are informed about the practices they should observe to comply with food safety regulations. Follow this guide for creating your checklist.
The situation of the premises
- Set up prep, washing, rinsing, and sanitizing stations.
- Cleanup of all tools and equipment is thorough.
- Dust and other sources of contamination must be kept away from utensils.
- Make sure that the thermometer is visible and accurate.
- Cleaning should be done in storage areas, refrigerators, and freezers.
- A pest control program is in place and the ventilation is adequate.
- Observe appropriate procedures for disposing of garbage.
- Ensure that the area is clean and free of pests.
Management of Food Safety
- Be sure to observe a food safety system.
- Documentation of food safety practices.
- Training is necessary for all restaurant and kitchen staff in food handling procedures and food safety.
Management of Food Handling
- Storage of food properly (food should be kept at least six feet above the ground).
- Food products and chemicals should be stored separately.
- Make sure that food is stored in a clean, dry environment to prevent contamination.
- Adopt the first-in-first-out approach.
- Maintain food safety by preventing cross-contamination.
- Frozen food products must be thawed properly.
- Food preparation equipment and tools are clean and used by restaurant and kitchen staff according to proper hygiene practices.
- Ensure the area in which raw foods are prepared is clean.
- The proper temperature must be observed when cooking different types of food products.
Upkeep the Common Areas for Inspection
Inspections of food and health will be focused on three primary things, namely:
- The situation of the premises
- Management of Food Safety
- Management of Food Handling
Management of Food Handling
Health inspectors will evaluate your food safety practices under this category.
- Process of food handling (how it is prepared, thawed, cooked, re-heated, cooled, and stored).
- Cross-contamination methods (if it’s properly observed by restaurant staff)
- Good kitchen practices (proper handwashing of restaurant staff, etc.)
The situation of the premises
Under this category, health inspectors will check the following.
- The general condition of the premises (cleanliness, pest control, layout, lighting, ventilation)
- Temperature control
- Maintenance of appliance, equipment, and the construction
- Cleaning schedules and procedures
Management of Food Safety
Health inspectors will assess how the restaurant manages and documents its food safety practices.
- Food safety management procedures (eg. HACCP)
- Staff management (food safety and health training, health monitoring)
Learn about the updated Food Safety Health Codes
You should be aware of what guidelines you should adhere to. There might be sudden changes in the food safety health codes, and failing to implement them right away could pose serious damage.
Ensure that you consult your local health authority about the updated list of the said codes. Especially now that there’s a major shift in the restaurant and health safety landscape, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your operation is properly complying with it.
Provide comprehensive training about Food Safety and Handling
There is no question that every staff involved in the process of food preparation and handling should have their Food Handler’s Permit. It certifies them that they received and completed food safety and training certification.
Your staff will be the only one in contact with the food before it leaves your kitchen and reaches the dining area. If they’re not observing food safety handling practices, it could risk the health of your customers, and the status of your restaurant.
Keep in mind that there are only a few who recovered from food poisoning or food contamination issues. As soon as your brand is associated with this issue, it will be difficult for you to get out of it.
Conduct your health inspections
A practical way of making sure that your staff and your system are at top of food safety management is by having your scheduled inspections. When you monitor your food handling practices and sanitation practices regularly, you can spot any loopholes right away.
You can then take immediate action. Consider making a daily schedule for your staff for them to know which areas they should focus on. It also gives you an extra eye to help you maintain your current food safety management system.
Get to know what are the most common health violations
Make sure to create a working system that prevents your restaurant staff from doing the following health code violations.
- Mislabelling of products, especially with expiry dates.
- Failure to check temperatures. (For food storage, preparation, and cooking)
- Improper storage of chemicals, and other cleaning items.
- Poor hygiene (presence of facial hair, failure to wear hairnets, eating and smoking near the food preparation areas, wearing of unclean uniform and open shoes)
- Operating with unclean washrooms.
Keep an eye on your storage issues
In restaurants, there are lots of storage issues you can encounter. There’s a lack of space, a lack of temperature checks, a lack of storage system, and many more. Make sure that you have a reliable storage system that will prevent you from facing such horrors.
Expired and spoiled products should be disposed of properly immediately. To avoid this problem, make sure that the expiry dates are indicated on the label or storage area of the particular item.
Cross-contamination is also a huge problem that can be sourced from poor storage systems. Every food item should have enough space to avoid being in contact with one another. If a raw ingredient comes into contact with a dry one, both will be contaminated already and should be discarded right away.
Storage issues do not apply to food items only. Cleaning materials should be kept away from your ingredients. Cleaning chemical solutions can cause extreme harm if incorrectly used or consumed.
Cleaning chemicals without markings or labels that are not legible can confuse, and mixing them up is not recommended. You may receive several warnings for unmarked and mislabeled bottles in restaurant food inspections.
Keeping cleaning supplies or other containers separate from food processing is a simple way to avoid this. Be sure to clearly label them and store them in an isolated area. In such a case, you must keep a clean towel and a red cleaning bucket at each station.
Health Code Violation Committed- What To Expect
It is important to stay calm if the health code appears to have been violated. Within the given deadline period, strategically plan how you will implement a solution for your restaurant. You may also appeal the violation if you have reasons to disagree with it.
Typically, if the violation is minor, like mislabelling of products, you’ll be given a specific period or timeframe to correct things. No financial penalty may be given. It’s just a matter of ensuring your team understands the importance of food safety management and following safe practices.
Possible closure of your restaurant and a fine will be given if your restaurant business has major violations. You will have to permanently close your restaurant if you fail to adhere to food safety regulations. Cross-contamination and unsafe food sources are usually the most common major violations.
You always need to keep in mind that no matter how minor or how major the violation is, it will be documented. Violations of any kind can damage the brand and image of your business.
Health Inspection Scores
Part of the most useful restaurant health inspection tips is making sure to understand how the scoring system of health and food inspections works. As you will be required to declare each inspection on your customers after each inspection, knowing the scoring system will help you understand how it will affect your restaurant.
Letter Grade Score System
In this system, the letters A, B, or C are used to represent the level of compliance of your restaurant with food safety regulations. Most of the time, your inspectors calculate your score based on the number and severity of the violations you have committed.
The letter grade is then converted from your number score after your points have been tallied. This system simplifies the scores in a way that makes them easier to understand for customers.
From A being the highest and C being the lowest. Here’s a quick overview of this scoring system.
- A – Optimal condition for the restaurant. You may have one major risk violation, but only a few to non-existent minor risk violations.
- B – Indicates that your system adequately adheres to the food safety regulations. You have conducted some major and minor risk violations.
- C – This reflects poor compliance with food safety and health regulations. Your inspector recorded a lot of major and minor risk violations during the inspection.
Number Grade Score System
It’s a point-based score system that’s often based on a 100 scale, with 100 being the highest. It’s almost the same as the letter grade score system, except that this type uses numbers to indicate the score.
- 90 or above – Optimal condition for the restaurant. You may have one major risk violation, but only a few to non-existent minor risk violations.
- 80 to 89- Indicates that your system adequately adheres to the food safety regulations. You have conducted some major and minor risk violations.
- 70 to 79- Your current food management system needs improvement. It suggests that you have multiple major and minor risk violations.
- 69 or below – This shows that the way you handle your food safety management is substandard. The inspector saw several risk violations, both major and minor.
Restaurant Food and Health Inspection- FAQs
What are the first things a health inspector checks?
- Aside from asking about the permits and paperwork of a restaurant, health inspectors usually gauge an establishment while washing their hands inside the washing area.
What determines the failure in the management?
- Health officers are more critical of how they see managers respond to their inspection.
What happens after the health inspection?
- After the visit, the health officer will provide feedback and give you a score. Some cities require restaurants and other food businesses to display these scores to inform the customers as well.
Is it possible to request another inspection?
- If you disagree with the result and filed an appeal, most likely you’ll be re-visited by an environmental health officer to make sure that you’ve complied with the food safety regulations properly.