- Food safety inspections aim to evaluate your compliance with food safety standards and the effectiveness of your food safety management system.
- Food inspections commonly focus on your food safety management system, facility design. food handling practices, employee hygiene and behavior, pest management, and cleaning procedures.
- A digital food safety management system can help you organize all document requirements while keeping compliance with food safety requirements.
They are known by different names, but they all have the same purpose, which is to ensure that your food business complies with food safety laws to protect public health. Food safety inspectors or Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) from your local health department can enter your premises at any reasonable time and day of the week unannounced as regular inspections. They can come for a routine inspection, investigate a business due to low ratings, or see if new food companies comply with the law. They can also visit because a consumer has complained or when a certification validity is due. These reasons are all different but what is an example of something food safety inspections focus on?
If you own, manage or work in food companies that serve or handle food, you should be ready for a food inspector
from your local health department or food safety agencies at all times. No trace of any hazardous food must be present at all times. Commitment to following food safety laws to their fullest and ensuring that your staff knows the safety protocols are important to prevent any foodborne human illness. Not only do food safety protocols ensure the safety of food through high standards and good inspection ratings, but they can also help your business grow through excellent customer ratings
and consumer acceptance too.
Learn more about how you should prepare for any food inspection by identifying the key areas involved.
What does a food inspector look for during an inspection?
Food and health inspectors will look for a wide range of aspects when doing a health inspection report for a restaurant. They are not searching just to find something because they can, nor are they trying to find a reason to close down your business. They are there to ensure that you are producing safe food for everyone to consume without the risk of foodborne diseases. Food safety inspections are standard operating procedures and part of foodborne disease surveillance programs established by food safety regulatory agencies to prevent the possibility of a foodborne illness outbreak by addressing food safety concerns. As such, there are key areas of concern about food safety that receive more attention during an inspection. Knowing these areas and always having them prepared at all times increases your chances of acing an inspection. This scenario also means that your food preparations satisfy food safety requirements at all times.
To ensure that your team is prepared for any food inspection, brush up on the following areas:
- The types of food you prepare. Offering high-risk foods such as those with allergens or those that easily spoil can gain extra scrutiny during a food safety inspection. More specialized safety standards and food handling practices are required for these food items or major food sources of recent foodborne disease outbreaks. Food safety inspectors are particular when it comes to bad handling practices that can lead to the production of unsafe food and cause foodborne diseases.
- The general condition and design of the premises. This area involves how your facilities are designed. Construction must be solid, layout support must support good food hygiene practices, cleanliness of the food preparation areas, whether the lights and ventilation work, and proper drainage systems must be in place.
- Employee hygiene and behavior. A food safety inspector is particular when it comes to how employees present themselves and their food safety practices. Criteria for this area include proper and clean uniform, absence of jewelry, no long nails, and no unkempt hair, how they wash hands, and overall discipline in the food service and preparation area.
- Food handling practices. This key area includes correct temperature controls when storing, cooking, cooling, freezing, and displaying food. All cooking temperatures, reheating, cooling down, and other critical parameters need to be recorded as proof that your food processing operations are always safe.
- Food labeling. Proper food labels reflect the validity of product and menu descriptions and include precautions such as allergen labeling. Proper labeling is a food safety law that ensures that the raw materials and finished products on your premises are all safe and wholesome.
- Cleaning schedules and techniques. Systems such as the use of color-coded equipment help enable a more efficient cleaning routine. Inspections on this area may include practices and used cleaning materials. Directives on how to use these cleaning and sanitizing materials must also be present as guidance for employees.
- Equipment maintenance. Ensure not only the cleanliness of appliances, oven and fridge door handles, and other small details but also their calibration and maintenance. Food inspectors will look beyond a clean-looking aesthetic. They also tend to keep an eye out for sharp edges, faulty appliances, and broken sockets. In addition, make sure that safety precautions are in place for sharp equipment such as a meat cutter, grinding machine, and sets of knives.
- Pest control. Pests harbor diseases and harmful bacteria that can contaminate your products and cause any foodborne illness. Staff knowledge on how to identify and report common signs of an infestation is important. The safety inspector can also ask basic questions on pest management such as common pests in your premises or identify how to deal with them. Safety officers are always vigilant toward any signs of infestation.
- Food safety management system (FSMS). Perhaps the most integral part of a food safety inspection is the effectiveness and efficiency of your food safety management system. This area includes how you monitor and record basic food safety practices and what protocols you have in place to keep food safe. The food inspector wants to see your HACCP plan in addition to your documentation system for your FSMS which includes your staff training records and food safety certification to ensure your business follows all safety principles effectively.
A food inspector arriving at your premises should not be a daunting experience. Knowing precisely what a food inspector is looking for will help make your staff more mindful of their work. In trying to satisfy a food safety inspection, the real key is to commit to food safety standards and do them regardless of whether an inspection is due or not. In this way, you can always be guaranteed that your food services are safe for consumers.
Food safety inspection for restaurants
As you already know, the food inspector from your local health department will investigate many aspects related to your food premises – from food preparation and handling to your food safety management system and documentation. When it comes to answering the question "what is an example of something food inspections focus on?", the more prepared your team is, the more confident everyone becomes.
You can use the food inspection routine used by food safety inspectors to address food safety concerns by taking notes or using a food safety checklist. Food safety or health inspection checklists help remind your team of the essential tasks that need to be done to avoid producing any hazardous food.
When preparing for a food safety inspection, proper documentation has a significant contribution. Make sure that your HACCP plan is complete and updated to the latest food safety laws. Additionally, your premises must be always clean and have cleaning schedules for your kitchen, front of the house, and bar to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria that can cause any human illness.
A food safety inspection would also include the review of your food handling practices such as maintenance of correct temperature. Whether this task is for food storage areas, cooking procedures, delivery conditions, or other food handling practices, correct temperature plays a very crucial role in wholesome and healthy food products with no food safety issues.
Proper storage temperature ensures that spoilage microorganisms are inhibited, whereas cooking to the right internal temperature eliminates pathogens and the risk of any disease or foodborne illness. Other practices such as observing proper handwashing for food handlers would also affect your evaluation.
Food business operators must be able to show adequate education on food safety principles through their actions during food processing. This can be exhibited such as in avoiding cross-contamination between raw and cooked or ready-to-serve products or in their food handling practices. Food contamination is one of the main origins of food safety hazards that cause foodborne illnesses in restaurants.
What documents do you need to show to the food safety specialist?
Before an onsite inspection, a food safety inspector can request a copy of the complete FSMS documentation requirements which may include the HACCP plan of food producers. These forms serve as proof of your food safety approach and will be evaluated for effectiveness and efficiency. Based on the assessment of the food safety specialist, an onsite food inspection may follow.
Here is a list of some of the most common yet essential documents that you will need to complete:
- Monitoring forms. Includes operational monitoring, cleaning, sanitation, storage, delivery, and other monitoring forms used to maintain food safety compliance.
- Food safety manuals. This document includes how to operate equipment in your food processes including proper cleaning and sanitation practices. Manuals are commonly provided for new food workers to acquaint them with the company's food processes.
- Checklists. When considering all of a food business's operations, they can sometimes be overwhelming. Checklists help your team remember all tasks and categorize them based on urgency. These tools can be an important part of your FSMS and serve as proof of compliance with food safety regulations and basic requirements.
- Permits and licenses. Almost all government agencies all over the world require certain permits and licenses. These documents may include food handlers cards for food employees, an annual food permit, and public health permit/license. In some countries, these permits are required for you to be granted operation rights.
- Certifications. These documents serve as proof of competency and having enough knowledge about certain food safety areas. Some important certifications include food protection manager and food safety training certifications.
- HACCP plan. As part of the food safety and inspection service of food safety agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, a risk-based food safety management system must be established for all food companies. This plan must be able to identify and control food safety hazards with monitoring procedures as well as corrective actions.
The best way for you to get all of these documents compiled, organized, and updated in time is to use a digital food safety management system. A digital FSMS enables you to have all your records in one place, while automated notifications help ensure there are no gaps in the documentation. Lucky for you, FoodDocs is the best at this game!
What happens when a restaurant fails a health inspection?
After the inspection, your business will receive a restaurant food inspection report listing the positive and negative aspects identified during the inspection. Yes, you will be praised for meeting your requirements, and it will feel amazing! On the other hand, your violations will be explained to you, and you will be given a timeframe to complete the required improvements.
There is no reason to panic when you receive a violation unless it is considered a critical violation It is better to direct that energy into finding solutions to the shortcomings identified in your report. Depending on the gravity of the violation, you might not even get a fine. However, your violation will be put on record, and your business will face a follow-up inspection.
When given a timeframe to address an issue, use it for briefing your staff, asking them questions about safety, and testing their knowledge. If the food safety violation is more serious, you may face a fine, be ordered to conduct food recalls, and might need to close the business until you fully fix the issue.
Noncritical violations and critical violations may include, but are not limited to:
- Improper food storage (for hot food or cold food)
- Detection of unwanted chemicals in food
- Improper labeling and damaged food packaging
- Problems with temperature records
- Sick staff working
- Staff not following employee health standards
- Serving improperly cooked food (especially undercooked)
- Food poisoning as a result of contaminated food and AFP (alleged food poisoning)
- Improper food waste management
- Non-compliant pest control
- Problems with structure and maintenance of the premises
- Incomplete documentation
Even noncritical violations and any food safety issues are always made public, so your current and future clients will become aware of any reported concern about food safety. If you are unable to fix the issue, your restaurant or food establishment can end up becoming permanently closed.
With that being said, there is no need to worry about food safety inspections. Yes, inspections can happen any day of the year, but if you already run your business with that in mind and much food safety efforts to help your business comply with safety regulations, you will always be prepared.
Digital FSMS for your next food safety inspection
The best way to help you score a perfect evaluation from a food safety inspection is to consistently maintain your compliance with food codes and regulations. How can you do this on top of managing your business? The answer is by going digital with your food safety management system and we offer the only solution to this. At FoodDocs, we value public safety as much as we value the compliance of your food business.
At FoodDocs, we can automatically create a digital Food Safety Management System for your food business within just an average of 15 minutes! After answering a few basic questions about your food business, you will get a set of monitoring forms and checklists that you can even customize to perfectly fit your operations.
Still not convinced? Here are a few more benefits that you can get by joining us:
- Our FSMS software was created by food safety experts who have had several years of experience in the food industry and know exactly how food safety inspections go.
- Our automatically generated digital monitoring forms and checklists can also be automatically filled by our system based on your previous data entries. All that is left to do is for you to verify the information.
- Using our digital FSMS, you can manage your certification schedules by storing them in our system. We will send you automatic notifications whenever a deadline is almost due and needs reevaluation.
- With our FSMS, you can easily facilitate training your food workers. This feature can be achieved by specifically assigning only clearly described tasks for an employee. This allows them to focus only on their job description.
- Never miss a task as we send notifications to your employees for food safety operations every day.
- Get all these features in the palm of your hands as our system is very much compatible with mobile devices and tablets.
- Use our real-time dashboard to review your everyday progress. You can even download this report, print it, and send it along with your FSMS documentation for a food safety inspection before the onsite evaluation.
Going digital with your management system has never been this easy. With a few clicks, you switch from your regular food safety management system run on paper into a fully digital system. With an automatically updated FSMS, you do not have to worry about food safety inspections. Your team will surely be ready at any time and any day.
Join the list of our 10,000+ satisfied customers who have decided to use our digital FSMS and have been compliant ever since. Avail of our free 14-day trial and start preparing for a food safety inspection now.