Restaurant owners strive to do anything in their power in order to prevent a failed food safety inspection. A failed inspection for a restaurant can mean a short-term closure and can signify more grave consequences down the road. Unfortunately, failing a health inspection is easier than it seems, and can happen to even the best restaurant.
When thinking of food safety issues that could result in a failed inspection, we tend to think of disaster-type scenarios like a horde of rodents crawling all over moldy food. In reality, the common causes of a failed inspection are less obvious.
One of the strict requirements of food storage inspection is the way food is stored, beginning with the labeling of food. Food must be properly and accurately labeled if not stored in its original container. Storing food containers directly on the floor of refrigerators and freezers would count as a violation, and we know that inspectors will be looking to make sure that raw foods are stored below cooked foods. Also, foods that have already thawed shouldn’t be refrozen, and having food stored in covered containers will often help match the inspector’s guidelines. Improper food storage can go easily unnoticed since it may feel natural to use up floor space in certain areas, but this is how pest and rodent problems begin.
Cross-contamination violations come down to raw meat placement and careful attention to detail in the food prep processes. Some of the methods to ensure safety include making certain foods very visible and defined, with procedures like color-coding labels serving a useful purpose.
Failed inspections will happen if items coming into contact with each other are disorganized, so labeling foods and the equipment used for specific items will add much-needed structure to food handling; in the end, restaurants don’t want employees to guess which items are in contact with each other. The use of cutting boards or regular countertops with raw meat begs careful attention, as not having dedicated counters/boards for different food types will raise red flags with inspectors. Using the ice machine/bin as a storage unit can also create health risks, as well as touching the center of plates or edges of glasses where customers will have the most contact.
Sanitizing is a fairly broad word, but it covers both employee cleanliness — such as proper handwashing techniques — and sanitation of kitchen surfaces and equipment.
As for kitchen equipment sanitization, grease and food debris buildup in less obvious areas can cause food safety issues. The important point here is consistency in cleaning/sanitizing, which means ample amounts of degreaser and keeping up with emptying grease traps. Inspectors will keep a close eye on the cleanliness of all kitchen equipment — so cleaning every angle of the most commonly used countertops for example, or knowing to wipe down the temperature knobs on grills, will speak to the attention to detail put forth by the employees and make a wide range of areas in the kitchen less likely to fail cleanliness standards. Also, having documentation of regular cleanings with a tool like health inspection checklists for restaurants will allow employees to know if the hard-to-reach or hidden areas have been taken care of recently.
Having opening and closing checklists for restaurant employees to follow before and after each shift can help to make these practices part of a daily requirement, and leaves less opportunity to fail any inspections.
This post was written by Duncan Day. Duncan is one of our helpful Customer Service Associates here at Squadle, working with customers daily to resolve issues and maximize compliance and efficiency.