You’re confident since you took the time to prepare the operation and your team, yet there is always that little bit of uneasiness when you see the health inspector walks in. Remember though, the health inspector is not the enemy. Although you both have very different professional roles, you both share the same goal for your kitchen.
If at all possible, be with the health inspector wherever they are. If they have a question about one of your food items, or a question about a piece of equipment, then this will give you an opportunity to explain your kitchen and your processes. They don’t ask questions to offend anyone, so don’t become irritable for what are most likely innocuous questions. Remember, the health inspector is trying to learn your kitchen and develop an understanding for future reference. This is especially true if this health inspector has been newly assigned to your food service facility.
The obvious reason to take notes during the health inspection is to show that you are taking this seriously, and of course it will. But also take time to go over any notes or questions you had from the previous visit. This will show the inspector you took the time to read through it recently. Additionally, you can bet the health inspector was reviewing the past inspection in their car right before they walked into your store. If you have questions about something during the previous inspection, make a “note” to ask them. This will also show you took the time to review the last inspection report and made sure everything was corrected.
Your health inspector will let you fix anything you can during the inspection, so do what you can. It will ultimately be up to them whether or not they mark it as being out-of-compliance, but correcting items during the inspection will certainly increase your chances.
There is a box on the inspection report labeled “CDI”, which means - corrected during inspection. Depending on the situation they may mark this if the item doesn’t pose a continuing threat to the public health.
Your health inspector’s knowledge will depend on their training and experience level. Their profession is like others in that there are good ones, and not as good ones. It isn’t up to us who inspects us, so ask questions if something is not understood. Even if your inspector is not as knowledgeable or experienced, they have colleagues who are. Asking questions also shows you are engaged in the process and want a full understanding of what an issue is in order to correct it. Most inspectors are willing, or at least should, get back to you with resolution if a question is posed and is not resolved on the spot.
Inspectors are bound by what is in your state’s food code. Having a copy of your state’s food code is one of the best resources for managing every aspect of food safety within your food service operation. If you ever have a question about something in your commercial kitchen, and this is helpful with or without the health inspector present, you can look it up and see exactly what the health inspector sees.
Need a copy of North Carolina or South Carolina codes? Click here to order a bound and tabbed copy, or download.
Thus, once the inspection is over, the cycle will repeat itself. Go nail your next health inspection!
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