Food safety

Who is the food inspector & how does a food inspection visit look like?

A food inspector is a food safety professional representative of food agencies who are tasked to evaluate the food ...


  • A food inspector is a food safety professional representative of food agencies who are tasked to evaluate the food safety management system of an establishment.
  • Food inspections are conducted to ensure compliance with food safety federal regulations and maintain a strict level of standard.
  • Some of the best preparation steps before a food inspection include ensuring that your team has been properly oriented and that all of your food safety documents are complete.

 

All food businesses are required to uphold a certain level of a food safety program to protect their consumers. Food agencies such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK are responsible for monitoring the implementation of food safety management programs over their jurisdictions. As a representative of such agencies to carry out verification tasks, a food inspector is sent to food businesses.

A food inspector can be from such food agencies, accredited third-party certification bodies, or even from your system. These representatives hold an impartial opinion about your operations and evaluate the performance of your food operations according to food safety laws. Qualified individuals can become food safety inspectors through proper training and certification systems. A food inspector's main task is to uphold food laws and food safety rules set out by food agencies and the government to protect public health.

In this article, we will be dealing with the most important things you need to know about a food safety inspector as a business owner.

 

food safety inspector

 

What is a Food Inspector?

A food inspector, otherwise known as an auditor, is a professional who ensures the implementation of food safety to protect public health from unsafe food manufacturing practices and ensure that food laws are followed. The role of a food inspector includes the investigation of complaints regarding food safety, assessment of food safety management systems, and writing routine reports on food processing establishments.

Selected food inspectors are professionals when it comes to food laws and regulations of the location they are responsible for. They have extensive knowledge on how to properly implement a food safety management system, its principles, common prerequisite programs such as sanitation practices and controls, and other critical operation steps. A food inspector has extensive experience in evaluating and interpreting the results of an inspection or audit to you as the owner.

 

What does a food inspector do?

A food inspector's task takes on many forms. The main objective of a food inspector is to protect the public from any food safety issues. These issues can be due to non-compliance with local and national legislation on food safety programs, unsanitary conditions, intentional adulterations or bioterrorism, and employees' lack of knowledge on food safety principles. They are responsible for guaranteeing that the products released in the market are safe for consumption.

Below are some of the main tasks of a food inspector: 

  • Performs compliance analysis with local and national food safety laws.
  • Ensures proper implementation of food safety plans.
  • Reviews your food safety plans and makes necessary suggestions where needed.
  • Conducts on-site inspection of food manufacturing and serving facilities.
  • Testing the knowledge of employees regarding food safety principles and hazards.
  • Scrutinizes the monitoring and verification procedures of your production team.
  • Implements and provides education and information about laws and federal regulations to food business owners and employees alike.
  • Verifies if previous inspection results have been applied or maintained.
  • Creates a food establishment inspection report on the status of a food business's food safety system.
  • Reports non-compliance with sanitary standards and any hazardous condition within the inspected plant.
  • Submits a report to local and national food agencies regarding the results of your food safety inspection.

Food safety inspectors are trained to heavily examine your systems to test whether everyone on your team is aware of the importance of food safety. Additionally, food inspectors will checkup on the completeness of your documentation to verify the efficiency and effectiveness of your food safety plans. The key to pleasing a food inspector is to have a comprehensive and well-written food safety management system plan. Luckily, our system at FoodDocs specializes in providing you with a detailed HACCP Plan and Food Safety Management System. Try our services in preparation for your upcoming food safety inspection.

 

Characteristics and skills of a good food safety inspector

As a food business owner, it would also be helpful to get to know food inspectors. This type of learning allows you to know your strategy of approach for an inspection. A food inspector is a professional and well-trained food safety personnel. This means that this representative knows a lot about food laws and regulations. You cannot hide any shortcomings from them.

Here are some attributes and common skills most food inspectors have that are considered as minimum qualifications:

  • Impartial. A food inspector is trained to objectively inspect and give a fair evaluation to your food business operations to uphold the standards of the agency he or she is representing. 
  • Observant. These representatives are trained to notice even the slightest of blunders and non-compliance. They are trained to have a very keen sense of attention to detail.
  • Excellent mobility. During an inspection, food inspectors are expected to have a full range of motion, a high degree of flexibility, and great physical fitness to endure on-site inspections.
  • Expert in food hygiene and safety laws and regulations. To assess your food safety plan, a food inspector is required to be knowledgeable about the basic and advanced food laws and regulations applicable to different food service establishments at different levels.
  • Professionalism and literacy. Food inspectors are required to give your food business constructive criticisms based on the shortcomings of your food business. They are similarly well-trained on how to relay the message to you in a way that you and your employees would understand. Food inspectors have expert technical skills in communication.
  • Soft skills. In addition to experience in relevant fields of the food industry, food safety inspectors are expected to have interpersonal skills. This means that food safety inspectors are expected to practice diplomacy in handing out results and suggestion points for improvement.

Being a food safety inspector means having to undergo rigorous training regarding food safety laws and inspections. In addition to experience in relevant fields of the food industry, food safety inspectors are expected to have interpersonal skills. This means that as a food business owner, you are required to be prepared to the best of your abilities. 

 

What is the salary of a food inspector?

The salary grade of a food inspector greatly varies depending on location and the position they hold. In the US, USDA food inspectors use the US Government General Schedule pay grade and are usually in the GS-5 and GS-7 levels. These pay grades translate to roughly $30,414.00 to $39,540.00 per year for GS-5 level and $37,674.00 to $48,978.00 per year for GS-7 level. 

A similar salary scheme is adopted by the FDA and can grant up to GS-11 for seasoned inspectors. For very technical and experienced inspectors, the FDA issue a pull-out notice and transfer the inspector to the FDA headquarters and give a GS-13 level compensation. This salary grade translates from $79,468.00 to $103,309.00 per year.

In the United Kingdom, a food inspector's salary is £26,000 per year on average. For an entry-level food inspector, salary starts at £20,000 per year, whereas an experienced inspector can earn up to £78,000.00 per year.

 

Why do we need food inspections?

Inspections ensure that preventive measures are in place to control food safety. The success and survival of a food business heavily rely on how food safety is controlled and serving safe products to consumers. Any issue related to food safety can damage the reputation of your brand and affect profit.

Without verifying the food safety management system of the food business, there is no other way to know whether it is working or not; or if it is efficient. A food inspection is performed to evaluate your operations, equipment, sanitary conditions, and hygiene practices. It aims to maintain a level of safety and ensure that hazards are controlled to a minimal level. 

In addition, food safety inspections are mandated food regulations by food safety agencies. They provide guidelines on how an inspection will be scheduled, the evaluation and feedback process, as well as procedures on how to apply suggestions for producing safe food products.

Food inspections previously focused on inspecting end products to determine compliance with food laws. With the recent changes in the food industry, inspections have become more proactive and focused on evaluating the process of making foods. Specifically, a food establishment can benefit from an inspection through the following aspects:

  •  Compliance with regulations and food laws. Inspections are scheduled and mandated by food agencies and your food business must comply accordingly. Food inspections are conducted to ensure that your process operations are following standards established by food agencies. This aspect includes whether your HACCP plan is complete or is fit for your type of food business. Food inspectors will review your whole HACCP plan and verify it with an on-site inspection. Some locations have stricter regulations than others. This is why your team must be knowledgeable about local, national, and international food laws.
  • Minimize food contamination. By evaluating your food safety and hygiene practices, a food inspector can conclude the level of food safety you are applying. Inspections can also unravel some missed points in your operations such as if your employee does not perform preoperational sanitation. An inspection can also be treated as a refresher course for your employees on proper food handling techniques.
  • Verify the soundness of your operation and equipment. A part of an inspection includes the verification of whether your operations perform their intended tasks effectively and efficiently. This activity also applies to your equipment. During an inspection, a food auditor can test the accuracy of your process as well as monitoring procedures. To stay on top of the line with your monitoring, you can use our monitoring system. In addition, our mobile application notifies you of any tasks scheduled for the day and informs you of any non-compliance to your standards. 
  • Protect public health. Food inspections aim to ensure that your food business is consistently producing safe and healthy food for the public. Inspections are also done to inspect any irregularities or reports of food safety issues related to your food products to prevent any potential hazard from causing an outbreak of any foodborne illness.
  • Maintain and promote good quality products. Although the priority of food inspections is the safety of your processes, the quality of your food products also follows. Inspections impose uniform processing and sanitary conditions for the production of wholesome foods for human consumption.
  • Evaluate business strategies. Through a thorough food safety inspection, your inspector can point give an assessment on which points of your food production process should you focus on.

Food agencies always aim to ensure that food laws and regulations are implemented to protect public health. To ensure this, they conduct announced and unannounced inspections to test the preparedness of a food business. Complying with these inspections is important to get an evaluation of your food safety system.

 

Types of inspections that food safety inspectors conduct

If you are a newly budding food business, expect that there will be a series of food safety inspections conducted by your local food and health departments and the higher food agency you report to. These visits ensure that you understand what is the importance of food safety and how you could improve your system where applicable. 

Food safety inspections require a response after visits. Your response will vary depending on the type of inspection conducted for your food business. These inspections can either be announced or unannounced depending on the purpose of their visit. To know how to best approach a food safety inspection, here are some of the common types of audits you can encounter.

  1. Pre-operational inspection. This type of inspection depends on the context and scale of the inspection. Pre-operational inspections can either be your in-house inspections performed daily before even starting your day-to-day food preparation activities. This activity involves a checklist of whether the previous shift has done post-operational cleaning, the equipment has been properly calibrated, food sanitation procedures have been followed, and others. On the other hand, a pre-operational inspection conducted by a food agency is usually done before a food business starts to formally open. The inspector evaluates your food facility based on cleanliness and orderliness, your menu, and your food safety plan. If you pass this inspection, you will get approval to open your business. 
  2. Routine inspections. Food safety inspections by local and national food agencies can sometimes be unannounced and conducted as a routine. This activity is done to ensure that your food business is operating as mandated every day without the idea of an inspection in mind. Routine inspections are also called periodic inspections.
  3. HACCP or any food safety plan inspection. Whether your chosen food safety management system is HACCP or not, you are required to have a comprehensive list of hazard analyses, preventive measures, and monitoring procedures. Food inspectors can schedule an evaluation to check if your established critical limits are being met or if any protocol breach is properly corrected.
  4. Follow-up inspection. Not all food businesses get it right the first time. Even if you have been in business for a while, there can always be some hiccups in your operations. If a food safety inspector notices any non-complying aspect of your operations, your inspector will forward the results and notes for improvement to you and your team. You will be given a chance to correct these points and will be scheduled for a follow-up inspection. This type of inspection is usually conducted between 1 to 5 days after the initial assessment.
  5. Complaint inspection. This type of inspection is something you should always try to stay away from. If a complaint is filed against your food business for food safety-related issues, your local food agency will issue an inspection notice. This inspection will be conducted to investigate the root cause of the complaint and discuss whose fault is it. Penalties and fines will depend on the types of violations and the degree of harm did the issue cause. 
  6. License renewal. Depending on the nature of your business and the type of food served in your establishment, you may need to renew your license to operate between 2 to 3 years. This renewal entails a food safety inspection which aims to determine if your business is up to date with food safety laws.


Food safety inspection schedules and frequency will greatly vary depending on the food agency protocols your business is under or the occurrence of unfortunate food issues. On average, the FDA conducts food safety regulations compliance between two to three years assuming there is no food safety complaint filed against your business. On the other hand,  the FSA food safety inspections range from 6 months for high-risk businesses to 2 years for low-risk food businesses. To prepare your team for inspections, prepare your food safety plan using our FSMS with a built-in HACCP plan builder. Our system offers an FSMS tailored to your food business operations that can help you manage your everyday tasks easily. Through our FSMS features, you can focus your time more on implementing and managing your food safety plan.

 

What should you do, if a food safety inspector enters your establishment?

When a food safety inspector enters your establishment, you should ask for a notice from the food safety inspector and a cause of inspection. A food safety inspector is expected to show a notice and cause of inspection as well as credentials showing his or her eligibility to conduct the process. If the inspection was ordered by the FDA, an FDA form 482 will be presented.  During the inspection, you are required to choose a representative to accompany the inspector and either plan a tour of the facilities or lead the inspector where he or she wants to be.

 

food inspector doing food inspection-1

 

How does an FDA food inspection visit look like?

Before the inspection is proper, it is important that the food business owner, your representative, if applicable, and the food safety inspector gather for a meeting. This meeting will tackle the agenda of the inspection, the scope, as well as if there were any shortcomings during the last inspection. Having a meeting with your food inspector before the inspection gives you time to orient the inspector of any problems you are currently addressing.

After your orientation and greetings, the food safety inspector is expected to review your documentation before doing an on-site inspection. Some of the important documents you need to present include:

  • Food safety management system plan
    • HACCP
    • Hazard analysis
    • Preventive controls and deviation reports
    • Critical control points
    • Established critical limits
    • Corrective action
    • Monitoring procedures
  • Internal audits
  • Product recall plans and reports (If any)
  • Training certifications
  • Investigation reports on food safety issues
  • Calibration reports
  • Complaint documentation

After reviewing for records, an on-site inspection is next. A food inspector's job at this point is to countercheck if the presented documents are accurate. After the successful completion of the actual inspection, a concluding meeting must be conducted. During this time, the inspector will relay and discuss findings and important issues. The concluding report can be given to you on the same day or the day after. This report contains the inspection details as well as important points in your production process for improvement. 

In the case of an FDA inspection, form 483 will be sent to you after the inspection. The FD form 483 contains the list of regulatory shortcomings and objectionable points of your food manufacturing facility. This form is given upon the conclusion of an inspection. The contents of the FDA for 438 are read and discussed with the food business management for better understanding.

You are expected to respond to the issued form 483 with a corrective actions plan and implement them before the follow-up inspection. A subsequent follow-up inspection will be scheduled to ensure that the raised issues are addressed. In case of major non-compliance problems, you are expected to receive a warning letter about potential sanctions you may receive.

 

How does an FSA food inspection visit look like?

Food safety inspections conducted by the FSA are not that different from the FDA food inspection routine. The FSA highlights that food safety inspections can be conducted at any reasonable time even without prior notice. Visits from a food safety inspector are usually because of the following reasons:

  • Routine food safety and hygiene inspections
  • Sampling
  • Complaint inspection

An inspection conducted by the FSA usually deals with the sanitary and soundness conditions of working facilities, counter-checks calibration of equipment, observe food preparation process, and even question staff about proper food handling practices. Some of the key points that the FSA emphasizes on their inspections involve the following aspects:

  • Hygiene of food rooms and equipment
  • Food storage and packaging (sanitation and conditions)
  • Food handling practices
  • Personal hygiene
  • Pest control
  • Waste control
  • Checks and recordkeeping
  • Recent updates on operations

After a food safety inspection, the inspector and forward enforcement actions to protect public health. Some disciplinary actions as a result of food safety regulation violations may include:

  • Confiscating food items that are unfit for human consumption
  • Submitting a report highlighting observed food safety issues and requesting to correct these issues
  • Serving a legal notice that lists corrective actions that you need to apply or a directive that forbids you to continue certain processes or use unfit premises or equipment.
  • In case of grave cases, the food inspection can issue prosecution notice.

Food inspections conducted by the FSA weigh heavily on the hygiene and food safety practices of your business operations. For hygiene inspections in the UK, you will be given a rating from 0 to 5, with 0 ratings being the lowest and signifying that you need to apply urgent revisions to your practice and 5 being excellent.

 

How to prepare for food inspections?

Consistency with the correct food handling and manufacturing practices is the key to ace a food safety inspection. Your team must always apply established regulations and standards every day. In addition to this, there are always additional steps that you can apply to your routine in preparation for a food safety inspection.

Here are some pointers you can apply for your whole team.

  1. Always practice good manufacturing habits. Being proactive when it comes to reminding your team about the correct food safety practices and ensuring that they follow them every day is a great way to become always prepared. Proper food hygiene and safety practices must be integrated into everyday activities to encourage turning them into useful habits.
  2. Conduct orientations on food inspections. Not all of your employees will know what a food safety inspection is and being put on the spot is a sure way to make anyone nervous and make blunders. To avoid this from happening, conduct regular meetings to orient your employees on what is being done during food safety inspections as well as their importance. This is also a great step to familiarize your employees with the most important food safety laws and health code violations.
  3. Ensure that food practices in place are up-to-date. Food safety policies and laws constantly change and improve. As such, your business must be updated with such changes to maintain compliance. Seminars and training sessions are usually conducted by food agencies to disseminate information. Make sure to send representatives to these seminars and conduct an in-house seminar to orient all your employees.
  4. Conduct in-house assessments of food safety systems. Routinely evaluate your food safety management systems if all established procedures are still applicable to current operations. This step saves you the time of explaining to your food inspector about current improvements being implemented in your business.
  5. Consult food safety inspection departments. If you are not well-experienced with food safety inspections yourself, you can always check on your local food safety agencies. You can request information on inspection forms, processes, and other important notes to take for a food safety inspection.

Food safety inspections can go horribly wrong without proper preparation. Your team can become nervous when they are lacking the necessary information ad instructions. Check one of the biggest tasks in your preparation checklist by ensuring that all your food safety plan documents are complete. Let us at FoodDocs help you with our Food Safety Management System. We can provide you with great support with our FSMS mobile application that can help you manage your time in preparation for your food safety inspection. 

Using our Food Safety Management System features, you can impress your food safety inspector with all the complete documents you need, including a working traceability system for your business. Our system highlights and helps you manage your team to become more organized with their daily tasks. Compile all your documents including training certificates and monitoring forms in an organized cloud just for your food business.

 

fda food inspection

 

The Food Safety and Inspection Service FSIS directives

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is a national system and a subagency of the USDA responsible for ensuring food safety of processes and products related to meat, poultry, and eggs. The agency is responsible for inspecting all mentioned products sold interstate as well as imported products to uphold US food safety standards. 

Some of the food safety directives that the FSIS monitors are based on the Federal Meat Inspection Act, Poultry Products Inspection Act, Egg Products Inspection Act, and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Some of the prominent tasks executed by the FSIS are inspecting slaughterhouses and meat-processing facilities, monitoring labeling and packaging, and investigating recalls. 

To protect the public from food safety issues, the FSIS has established several food safety directives. As a general guideline of a food safety inspector's task in evaluating a food establishment, the FSIS has implemented the Series 5000 directive.

 

What is the FSIS directive Series 5,000: Program services?

Specifically, under the FSIS Directive 5000.1 Verifying an Establishment's Food Safety System (Revision 6), the FSIS lays out the instructions for food safety inspectors. This directive includes guidance for food safety inspectors or Inspection Program Personnel (IPP) on how to properly conduct analysis and verification of a food business's HACCP system. 

The FSIS agency has summarized this directive into 4 key points:

  • Includes instructions for the evaluation of Sanitation Performance Standards, Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures, and HACCP regulatory requirements.
  • Includes a specific definition and outline of the proper establishment of a HACCP system.
  • Instructions for food safety inspectors for verification of SSOP and SPS requirements for import and egg establishments.
  • Instructions for documentation of HACCP system verification.

Other program services aimed at identifying the roles of the food safety inspector are available to the public. Some other directives include:

  • VT Directive 5000.8 Rev 1: Verifying Compliance with Requirements for Written Recall Procedures
  • VT Directive 5100.5: Public Health Regulations and FSIS Response to Elevated Public Health Regulation Noncompliance Rates

 

Preparing all your documents for a food safety inspection with FoodDocs

As a food business owner, it will always play in your favor to have all the necessary documents ready. This task means properly filling and reviewing all the parts of your food safety management system. Nowadays, you can also skip the long meetings just to make sure that all your food safety management system documents are complete. Many digital solutions such as what we offer at FoodDocs can help you do this and spend your time more on implementing the system and verifying your processes. 

Set your whole team for success by building a comprehensive Food Safety Management System with us at FoodDocs.Our FSMS system is made by experts and approved by food inspectors. We recognize food safety laws and regulations both in the UK and US in addition to other international and local food safety rules. Your Food Safety Management System will be created according to your business. Answer a few basic questions and you'll get your system implemented with 30 minutes.

From prefilled monitoring sheets to other checklist templates, our system can help you prepare for your food safety inspection. You can customize all suggested monitoring forms to fit your business. 

Setup your own food safety management system in 30 minutes and help your team perform their best in their daily tasks. This system is built to make everything as simple as possible for you, also to save your time and money. Ensure that your own Food Safety Management System is working by remotely monitoring all tasks with our food safety dashboard and mobile app. 

Our mobile Food safety application can become your personal companion when it comes to food safety inspections. Set schedules and deadlines using our mobile app and never let all your employees miss out on these. Specifically for food inspection purposes, we also offer digital audit templates. This application also features reminders for tasks that you need to do on a daily basis. Your success in a food safety inspection also depends on your recordkeeping practices.

Get the majority of your preparations done for a food safety inspection by starting with your 14-day free trial for our Food Safety Management System.

 

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