Why We Need Food Inspections

Restaurant inspections reflect how well a retail establishment is adhering to the rules governing food establishments. The rules are written to minimize the possibility of a foodborne illness due to abuse in a food establishment. Establishments are inspected three times per year on average, so one inspection will give you a picture of how the establishment is doing on one particular day, but it would not be appropriate to make generalizations about an establishment based on one inspection.

Inspections are risk based, this means that the inspector will be mainly looking for critical violations. Critical violations are those that if left uncontrolled, have the possibility of resulting in foodborne illness. The inspection form is broken down into three areas:

The first and most critical is food temperature and time requirements. These requirements are important because it has been scientifically proven that time and temperatures are the two factors that influence bacterial growth in foods. Inspectors will monitor cooking, cooling, and reheating temperatures of food. They will look at minimum hot holding temperatures (140° F) for hot foods, and also cold holding for refrigerator (41° F) and freezer (0-10°F) units. These violations are critical and they require that the establishment make immediate corrective action.

The second area of focus is personnel, handling, and source requirements. These are violations that can indirectly affect bacterial contamination of foods. In this area, inspectors are looking for good hygiene by the employees including hand washing and the use of hair restraints. Inspectors will check if food is in good condition, if it is being properly stored, handled and being obtained from an approved source. Special attention is given to systems, such as date labeling, that ensure the food is used according to the set guidelines. These violations are considered serious and also require immediate corrective action.

The last focus area is the facility and equipment requirements. Simply put, inspectors are making sure employees in the establishment have everything they need to produce safe food. The focus is on the physical facilities, floors, walls, ceilings, and equipment in the restaurant. Inspectors look for soap and towels at hand wash sinks, thermometers being provided and accurately calibrated to test food temperatures, and if food contact surfaces of equipment and utensils are clean, sanitized and in good repair. The inspector is given some discretion on the time frame for corrective actions to be completed, as long as corrections are completed within ten (10) days.

Follow Up Inspections are conducted on every establishment having open or unresolved violations. In the event that there is a violation that cannot be resolved while the inspector is still at the establishment, a follow up inspection is scheduled within the next ten (10) days. Inspectors then return to the establishment and assure corrections have been completed. The food rules require that an establishment have no violations present after an inspection. The Division will continue have involvement in an establishment until all violations are resolved.
Inspectors also have a comments section where they can address potential problems they identify during an inspection even if these do not constitute a violation. For your information, you may download a copy of the City's Food Ordinance here.