If there is one thing in the world that is considered universally important, food would be at the very top of the list. We expect the food we buy from the store or order for delivery will be safe for the family to enjoy. This measure of trust is only possible because of the dedication of restaurant staff and inspectors from the health department.
The ability of a restaurant to remain in business is contingent upon its ability to achieve a passing grade from the health inspector. These visits are usually unannounced, so restaurants must always maintain a high level of cleanliness to avoid many of the situations leading to the consumption of unsafe food. Here is more information about what health inspectors look for and how to avoid common health code violations.
1. Lack of or Improper PPE
Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is the safety gear that employees should wear when handling food or interacting with customers. This starts immediately with all employees properly wearing face masks, practicing social distancing when possible, and taking other precautions if restaurants are still being shuttered for COVID violations in your area. These masks should cover the nose and chin simultaneously with no openings or vents.
On top of these extreme precautions are the same practices that still must be followed. Hairnets and hats should be used to keep hair out of food. Ponytails should be tied up for the same reason. Gloves should also be worn when handling cooked and uncooked food. Other PPE such as oven gloves, aprons, and more should all be provided to ensure worker and customer health and safety.
2. Exceeding Capacity
Every building has a maximum occupancy that is usually established by the fire marshal. The occupancy load is the number of people permitted in a building at one time based on floor space and the function of the building. This number must be publicly available and posted on signs. This number is designed to keep everybody safe in the event of an emergency.
The pandemic is also impacting the number of diners allowed in the building at once. States and counties are still reducing capacity while issuing large fines for going over the new maximums, so it is crucial to avoid exceeding the capacity of the building. These caps range between 20-80% capacity of what the fire martial normally allows.
There are many ways that cross-contamination can ruin a restaurant’s kitchen. There are many opportunities throughout the day for two different foods to cross paths that shouldn’t have before there is a full-blown outbreak. This is why it is important for all of your staff to be knowledgeable about the risks associated with handling food. Cross-contamination occurs from situations such as not replacing utensils when changing meats, not swapping cutting boards, and improperly cleaning surfaces that come in contact with the food.
4. Temperature Controls
The food danger zone is a real thing, and health inspectors will be looking for food that is outside of the approved temperature zones. Letting foods escape the safe range leads to bacteria and can cause illnesses to spread. This also includes cooking foods to proper temperatures before serving, as well as hot and cold storage.
5. Improper Food Storage
Speaking food storage, it is also important to make sure all your food is not only stored at the proper temperature but also avoids cross-contamination. Foods must also be labeled with the product and the date it was prepared. Stacking them in a safe order will ensure contamination is avoided. From top to bottom, the order goes:
- Cooked Meats
- Meats above
- Seafood below
- Raw Meats
- Beef, Pork, Lamb
- Ground Meats
- Poultry always on the bottom
6. Expired Food
In many kitchens, there is a philosophy of leaving things you aren’t required to do for somebody else. This can allow things like spoiled food to be left in refrigeration and freezer units. Not only is it unhealthy to keep expired food around fresh fare, but there is also the possibility of the expired ingredient being used by mistake.
7. Tool Usage
The tools used around the kitchen are partially responsible for making everything run, so it is crucial to avoid code violations when using them. This can include a meat slicer, utensils, cutting boards, and anything else around the kitchen where cross-contamination becomes a threat. Items should be washed and sterilized between each use to ensure proper safety protocols are followed.
8. Staff Hygiene
The hygiene of the people working in the restaurant is also important. A health inspector will immediately fail an establishment if they witness employees not washing hands, coughing on food, or any of the other ways that good hygiene should cover. If a staff member is showing signs of illness, they should immediately be sent home.
9. Improper Chemical Storage
There are many chemicals used to keep restaurants clean and hygienic. A crucial step in how to avoid common health code violations is to ensure your cleaning supplies are properly labeled and stored correctly. It is also a violation to use improper chemicals for cleaning. Certain chemicals must also never be mixed. If a health inspector finds any of these violations, it might result in the restaurant being closed until the issues are resolved.
10. Missing Signs
It is a requirement for restaurants that certain signage is posted to encourage compliance with the health code. These posters have information on what is and isn’t in compliance, as well as providing information on how to contact the proper authorities for violations. There should also be signs about proper food safety and personal hygiene at the safety sinks around the building.
One of the best ways to keep your restaurant clean and in compliance with the health code is through new indoor garbage cans for customers and staff. The experts at Trash Cans Depot are here to help you find the right trash and recycling bins to help keep your store clean on inspection day, and every other day as well.