Food safety compliance inspections of food premises are carried out by Health Inspectors to reduce the possibility of foodborne illness outbreaks, to educate food services staff about safe food handling practices and basic sanitation requirements, and to enforce food safety regulations. The frequency of inspection is determined based on a risk-based criteria assessment and most premises are inspected 2 to 3 times per year.

So what should a restaurant operator do between inspections by Health Inspector? The best way to ensure getting a PASS inspection is to be your own Health Inspector by promoting regular self-inspection of food safety compliance, to identify infractions and correct problems before the health inspector finds them. Self-inspections can improve food safety while reducing foodborne outbreak risk and liability of the business.

How to identify infractions in a restaurant:

Crucial Infractions – Infractions that present an immediate health hazard and likely to cause food borne illness. Examples: Food contamination, time-temperature abuse, lack of safe water, sewage backup, active pest infestations or any other condition that is a health hazard.

Significant Infractions – Infractions that present a potential health hazard. Examples: Food contact surfaces/equipment require cleaning or repair, refrigerators and dishwasher require repair, missing indicating thermometers, garbage not store in a sanitary manner, improper cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and utensils, dirty ice bin/ice machine, washroom dirty and supplies not provided.

10 food safety steps for self-inspection

1. Check food temperature control (use your local health regulation requirements)

  • Avoid the Danger Zone. Keep cold food COLD (below 4°C/40°F) and hot food HOT (above 60°C/140°F) and keep frozen below -18°C/0°F.
  • Check refrigerators and freezers to ensure they have indicating thermometers and in compliance of temperature requirements.
  • Cook all hazardous food such as meat to a safe internal temperatures, use a probe thermometer.

2. Check food storage to ensure food protected from contamination

  • Store cooked and ready-to-eat food items on shelves above raw food.
  • Cover food with lids or wrap and use utensils to reduce direct hand contact with prepared food.
  • Use clean safe water for making drinks, ice and preparing food.
  • Label chemicals and pesticides and store them away from food and the food preparation area.
  • Keep all food items off the floor and store on shelves, racks or pallets.

3. Check to ensure good personal hygiene is required from all employee

  • All food handlers must wash hands thoroughly before and after handling food.
  • Provide hot/cold running water, soap in a dispenser and a supply of paper towels at all hand wash basins. Ensure these basins only for hand washing and not for other purposes such as food preparation or dish washing.
  • Wear clean outer garments and hair constraints

4. Check food contact surfaces/equipment to ensure good maintenance/sanitation

  • Clean and sanitize with soap and water followed by a solution of approved sanitizer.
  • Keep all food contact surfaces clean and in good condition.
  • Discard cracked utensils such as cutting boards or deeply grooved food contact surfaces.
  • Wash all utensils, dishes and equipment either by hand, using the two or three sink method (wash-rinse-sanitize) or in a mechanical dishwasher as required.
  • Empty and clean ice bin regularly. Twice a year, ice machine (inner-workings) must be professionally sanitized. (Note: A service like Easy Ice subscription provides your restaurant with an ice machine and includes professional deep-cleanings 2x year)

5. Check non-food contact surfaces/equipment to ensure good maintenance/sanitation

  • Keep floors, walls and ceilings clean and in good repair and to ensure all surfaces are smooth, non-absorbent and easy to clean.
  • Ensure the mechanical dishwasher and other equipment in good working condition.

6. Check all public and staff washrooms to ensure good maintenance/sanitation

  • Keep washrooms, toilets and change rooms clean at all times.
  • Provide: Toilet paper, garbage container,constant supply of hot/cold running water, soap in a dispenser and a supply of paper towels or a hot air dryer at the hand wash basin.

7.  Check waste storage/removal

  • Remove solid and liquid waste from the food preparation area on a daily basis, or more often if necessary and store waste in a sanitary manner.
  • Waste receptacles must be leak-proof, pest-proof, non-absorbent and have tight-fitting lids.

8. Monitor pest infestation and control

  • Check for evidence of infestation such as live/dead pests, droppings, nesting sites. Ensure to cover any openings to prevent pests from entering.
  • Eliminate any food or water sources for pests.
  • Obtain a contract with a licensed pest control operator to provide regular pest control services.

health inspector, restaurants, food borne illness,

9. Food service staff knowledge on food safety

  • Check to ensure food service staff have received food handler training & certified through a Food Safety Certification Course (like ServSafe) as per local health department’s requirement. Re-fresh food handlers regularly with the knowledge of safe food handling practices

10. Maintain good operational records

  • Keep records of food safety inspection reports by health inspectors and self-inspection reports, pest control schedules and service provided, equipment repair and maintenance records. Review   records with managers regularly as part of the quality assurance program. Note: If you subscribe to an ice machine from Easy Ice, they keep and maintain all records regarding the ice machine for you (maintenance, when water filters were last changed, repairs, etc..). Time and hassle saver!

As Robert Irvine wrote in a recent article, if you’re not going to keep your restaurant sanitary and safe, you may as well shut it down!