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Food Safety with Laura Miller
Our public health departments regularly inspect businesses serving food to ensure they are following safe food handling procedures. Local laws regulate how frequently these inspections take place, and what specific items inspectors look for, but, in general, environmental health inspectors check that safeguards are in place to protect food from contamination by those handling food, cross-contamination, and contamination from other sources in the restaurant.
The reports generated by these inspections can be ordered from your local health department. Some local health departments are now making the reports available online so consumers can make educated choices on where to eat. Be prepared the next time a health inspector walks through your door. Here’s a list of 5 things most health inspectors are looking for:
1. CRITICAL ITEMS
These are literally “red” flag items denoted in red on inspection sheets. Examples include improper hand-washing, cooked foods not immediately chilled, commercial dishwashers not using the correct sanitizer concentration, and cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked products.
2. NON-CRITICAL ITEMS
While not as severe as a red mark, non-critical issues such as improperly labeled food storage containers, out-of-date operator permits and malfunctioning meat thermometers, can lead to serious problems.
3. POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS FOODS
Meat, poultry, seafood and ready-made foods require special handling – inspectors will ask for records to prove you’re doing it right.
4. MANAGER AND STAFF KNOWLEDGE
Restaurant owners must know their local health codes and the inspector will ask questions to test your knowledge!
5. EMPLOYEE HEALTH
Sick employees are a serious threat to your restaurant – not to mention your inspection. Send a sick employee home immediately because person-to-person contact is the leading cause of foodborne illness and inspectors have the authority to check a worker’s medical records!