Sanitation Rating – The extremely simple version :}

The conception most people will take when looking at the sanitation rating posted in a food service operation, i.e., restaurant, cafeteria, canteen, school, is this rating reflective of…how clean the operation is?  Do they mop and clean the bathrooms regularly?  Do they have clean uniforms?

The point is, if you were to ask ten random people what a sanitation rating means, you would receive different answers from each person.  The term is too broad to define specifically; therefore, people will answer how they think it most appropriately fits into what they deem important from a personal perspective.  Adding to the bewilderment, the document used by most health departments states that Sanitation Rating is at the top.

So, what does the restaurant sanitation rating really mean?

First, we need to be familiar with two agencies:

  • FDA (Food & Drug Administration) – responsible for writing and updating the Model Food Code.  The Model Food Code is simply a book of guidelines backed up by the latest science available.  These guidelines focus on how to keep food from becoming contaminated in a retail setting.
  • CDC – Through researching the causes of foodborne illness in retail food service (restaurants, cafeterias, schools, etc.), it has been found that five risk factors contribute to the vast majority of food poisoning cases in individuals.
    • Poor personal hygiene
    • Contaminated equipment (leading to cross-contamination)
    • Improper cooking
    • Improper holding (storage and serving)
    • Food purchased from unapproved sources

Using the FDA and the CDC risk factors, both agencies developed a model inspection form for health departments nationwide to use when inspecting retail food operations such as restaurants, cafeterias (school and healthcare facilities), or any place that sells food. There are too many to list.

This means the inspection report, derived from the sanitation rating, is a risk-based inspection report.  So, the score, or sanitation rating, is actually…a Risk Assessment Score.  It reflects how well the operation controls or reduces the risk of their customers contracting food poisoning.

This gives a little different perspective but a more accurate one.

Let me know if you have questions!