Health code violations can severely damage the reputation of your business. Don’t wait for a health inspector to come and inform you of any violations. The best way to ace your next health inspection is to perform one of your own.
Self-inspections of your restaurant can help you find potential infractions and fix them before a health inspector pulls out his dreaded red pen. Not only will self-inspecting help to pass your next health inspection, but it will also improve food safety, which will reduce the chance of any customers from contracting a foodborne illness.
How to Identify Health Code Violations Before They Occur
Health code violations can differ from city to city, most of which categorize their health infractions into two or three different criteria.
To make it simple, we’ve separated health violations into two categories:
Critical Infractions – These present an immediate health hazard that will likely lead to foodborne illness if not corrected. Examples include:
- Contamination of food
- Food stored at improper temperatures
- Lack of potable, clean water
- Sewage backups
- Pest infestations
- Other conditions that are defined as health hazards
Significant Infractions – Infractions that can lead to a possible health hazard. Examples include:
- Dirty surfaces or equipment that are used to prepare food
- Unmaintained or damaged refrigerators and dishwashers
- No thermometers in appliances that designate temperatures
- Garbage not safely stored
- Equipment and utensils are not being properly cleaned and sanitized
- Dirty ice machine or bin
- Unclean washrooms or washrooms without supplies present
10 Food Safety Tips to Limit Health Code Violations
By following this self-inspection checklist, you can help to avoid damaging health code violations for your restaurant.
1. Food Temperature is Properly Maintained
- The FDA requires cold food to be kept below 40°F, and hot food must stay above 140°F.
- Refrigerators and freezers must have thermometers to monitor those temperature requirements.
- Hazardous food, such as meat and poultry, must be cooked at a safe internal temperature monitored by a meat thermometer.
2. Protect Food from Contamination with Proper Storage
- Don’t store cooked or ready-to-eat food below raw food.
- Make sure food is in a container covered a lid or plastic wrap. Limit hand to food contact by using utensils whenever possible.
- Use clean, potable water during food prep or when mixing drinks and ice.
- Make sure all chemicals and pesticides are labeled and stored away from food.
- Food items should be stored on shelves, racks, or pallets away from the floor.
3. Employees Must Maintain Good Personal Hygiene
- Anyone who handles food must wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Staff should have access to hot and cold running water. Hand soap and paper towels should be near all washbasins. Use designated washbasins are for handwashing ONLY – no preparing food or washing dishes in them.
- Clothes must be clean, and hair should be contained
4. All Surfaces and Equipment Used to Prepare Food Should be Clean and Maintained
- All food surfaces should be cleaned and sanitized with soap and water. Use food-grade sanitizer to finish cleaning.
- Broken or cracked items like cutting boards or deeply grooved food contact surfaces should never be used to prepare food.
- To clean utensils, dishes, and equipment, either wash by hand, by the two or three sink method (wash-rinse-sanitize) or use your dishwasher appliance.
- Empty and clean your ice bin regularly. Make sure ice machines receive professional cleanings at least twice a year.
5. Make Sure All Non-Food Contact Surfaces and Equipment are Cleaned and Maintained
- Surfaces like floors, walls, and ceilings need to be clean, smooth, in good condition, and non-absorbent.
- Check to see if dishwashers and other appliances are still in good working condition.
6. Public and Staff Bathrooms Must Be Clean and in Good Maintenance
- Regularly clean bathrooms, toilets, and change rooms throughout the day.
- All bathrooms must be stocked with toilet paper and a trashcan. Sinks should have hot and cold running water, soap, and paper towels or a hot air dryer nearby.
7. Waste Need to Be Properly Stored and Disposed Of
- Solid and liquid waste from the food prep area must be disposed of daily.
- Store garbage in a sanitary manner.
- Trashcans must be sealed tightly. Make sure trash bins aren’t attracting pests or absorbing waste.
8. Prevent Infestations and Eliminate Pests
- Look for signs of infestation like live/dead pests, droppings, or nesting sites. Openings need to be sealed to prevent pests from entering your workplace.
- Secure any food or water sources that could attract pests.
- Hire a pest control professional to inspect and eliminate signs of infestation.
9. Staff Must be Educated in Food Safety
- Foodservice staff members must have food handler certification through a Food Safety Certification Course. Make sure food handlers regularly review safe food handling practices.
10. Keep Operational Records on Hand
- Keep records of all past health inspections along with personal self-inspection reports, pest control visits, and equipment repair and maintenance records. Review records with managers regularly.
Avoid Health Code Violations on Your Next Health Inspection
Our health inspection checklist was designed to help you identify potential health code violations before a health inspector does. Being prepared will save a lot of stress when the inspector visits next!
Also, keep in mind health that inspection grades are public record. Local news outlets and state government sites publish scores regularly. Finding yourself on the list can really harm your reputation and business.