Health inspections are a regular part of life in any food service business, but too often it’s easy for a restaurant or commercial kitchen to fall into the trap of just passing the inspection rather than regularly practicing good food safety procedures. This series is intended to help your business improve food safety practices, because it’s about more than passing an inspection. It’s about protecting yourself, your employees, and your customer.
The FDA estimates that 81,000 people suffer from a food borne illness every year, and that 9,000 deaths are a direct result of a preventable food borne illness. Food borne illnesses are still the leading cause of emergency room visits in the United States. With those sobering statistics in mind, here are some tips to help you make safe food handling an integral part of your day-to-day routine:
Be Your Own Health Inspector
If you make food safety a priority in your restaurant or commercial kitchen, then the day the health inspector does show up shouldn’t be anything to worry about. If anything, a health inspector can be a great resource for helping you improve your food safety practices and you should take advantage of his or her expertise to make your operation better. However, in the meantime before your next inspection, it’s a good idea to conduct your own examination of food safety practices and identify trouble areas that need improvement.
Some tips on being your own health inspector:
- Arrive unannounced. Surprise your employees and enter your business from the outside, giving you a more accurate perspective of what the real health inspector sees when they come for an inspection.
- Use a copy of the local health inspection form. This will help you understand exactly what the health inspector is looking for and familiarize you with the process so that you know what the inspector is looking for.
- Conduct a thorough walk through. Take out the white glove and be as objective as possible in identifying problems with food safety procedures. Ensure that guidelines for food storage, labeling, handwashing, and food preparation are being followed.
- Take the time to speak to employees. Make these mock walkthroughs a training exercise for your employees so they can stay fresh on food safety procedures. Point out errors and take the time to teach employees about how to improve food safety. This will only help them perform better when the real inspector arrives.
- Identify problems and define strategies to address them. If you find potential violations, develop a strategy for addressing the problem. Don’t just lecture your staff about transgressions and consider the problem taken care of. Re-check for violations more frequently until the problem has been addressed, and reward employees who quickly correct mistakes. Providing your employess with the proper training is also a good idea!