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Explain how a foodservice regulatory inspection is conducted.

In North Carolina, most foodservice establishments are inspected four times per year. The frequency of inspection is dependent on the type of establishment.

The NC Foodservice Rules Governing the Sanitation of Foodservice Establishments (15A NCAC 18A . 2600) provide clear guidelines about how an inspection should be conducted. Inspections are conducted by Environmental Health Specialists (EHS) authorized by the State of North Carolina to conduct a foodservice inspection.

Upon entry into the foodservice establishment, the EHS should identify themselves and their purpose in visiting the establishment. The EHS should ask to see the responsible person and invite that individual to accompany him or her during the inspection. If no employee is identified as the responsible person, the EHS can invite another employee to accompany them on the inspection. Following the inspection, the EHS should review the results of the inspection with the responsible person or the individual who accompanied them on the inspection.

The grading of the facility will be done on an standard inspection form available at:  www.deh.enr.state.nc.us/ehs/Forms/DENR4007.pdf. Each operator should have a copy of the rules in their establishment and be familiar with the inspection form.  You may download a copy of the rules at:  http://www.deh.enr.state.nc.us/images/food/fooddefense/The%20Control%20of%20Norovirus%20in%20a%20Food%20Service%20Facility-12-08.pdf

The inspection form includes, but is not limited to, the following information:

· the name and mailing address of the establishment;

· the name of the person to whom the permit is issued;

· the score given;

· standards of construction and operation as listed within the Rules book;

· a short explanation about all points deducted;

· the signature of the Environmental Health Specialist; and

· the date of the inspection.

In filling out the inspection form, points may be deducted only once for a single occurrence or condition existing within or outside of the foodservice establishment. Deductions must be based on actual violations that are observed during the inspection. The EHS can take zero, one-half, or a full deduction of points depending upon the severity of or the recurring nature of the observed violation. In determining whether items or areas of an establishment are clean, the EHS should consider among other things — the age of the accumulated material, the relative percentage of items that are clean and not clean, the cleaning practices of the establishment, and the health risk posed by the circumstances.

Grading

The sanitation grade for all foodservice establishments is based on a system of scoring wherein all establishments receiving a score of at least 90 percent shall be awarded a Grade A; all establishments receiving a score of at least 80 percent and less than 90 percent shall be awarded a Grade B; all establishments receiving a score of at least 70 percent and less than 80 percent shall be awarded a Grade C. Permits will be revoked from establishments that receive a score of less than 70 percent. Beginning August 1, 2004, the numeric score will be posted along with the alphabetic grade.

An establishment can receive a credit of two points on its inspection score for each inspection if a manager or another employee responsible for the operation of the establishment who is employed full time in that particular establishment has successfully completed in the past three years a foodservice sanitation program approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Evidence that an individual has completed such a program must be maintained at the establishment and provided to the EHS upon request. An establishment must score at least 70 percent on an inspection to be eligible for this credit.

Upon initial inspection of a foodservice establishment or if a renovation or other change in the establishment makes the grade inconspicuous, the EHS shall designate the location for posting of the grade card. The grade card shall be located in a conspicuous place where the public upon entering the establishment will be able to easily see it. If the responsible person of the foodservice establishment objects to the location designated by the EHS, then the responsible person may suggest an alternative location that meets the criteria of the Rules.

Whenever an inspection of a restaurant, food stand, or drink stand is made, the EHS shall remove the existing grade card, issue a new grade card, and post the new grade card in the same location where the grade card was previously posted as long as the location remains conspicuous. The responsible person or operator of the foodservice establishment shall be responsible for keeping the grade card posted at the designated location at all times. The responsible person and the EHS may post the grade card in another location that meets the criteria of this Rule if agreed upon.

Re-inspection

Upon request of the permit holder or his or her representative a re-inspection shall be conducted. In the case of an establishment that has been closed for failure to comply with the NC Rules Governing the Sanitation of Foodservice Establishments, a re-inspection to consider the issuance or reissuance of a permit shall be made at the earliest convenience of the EHS. In the case of establishments that require an inspection for the purpose of raising the alphabetical grade/numerical score and that hold unrevoked permits, the EHS shall make an unannounced inspection after the lapse of a reasonable period of time that is not to exceed 15 days from the date of the request.


Risk-based inspections

North Carolina is moving toward conducting risk-based inspections and away from the traditional floors, walls, and ceiling approach to inspections, which focus more on sanitation than safety. The paradigm for conducting a risk-based inspection is different. An EHS would need to focus the inspection, set priorities, and assess active managerial control.

Focusing the inspection. To effectively conduct a risk-based inspection, the EHS has to focus on foodborne illness-related risk factors that are specific to the individual operation. These risk factors typically are associated with food handling practices and so directly impact food safety rather than with sanitation issues.

Furthermore, the EHS must model good practices. For example, they should:   (1) wash their hands before beginning an inspection and after engaging in any activity that might contaminate hands; (2) sanitize thermometer/thermocouple stems before and between taking food temperatures; (3) being careful not to touch ready-to-eat food with bare hands; (4) try not to contaminate cleaned and sanitized food-contact surfaces; (5) use an effective hair restraint; (6) have the proper equipment, such as a thermocouple and the appropriate sanitizer test kit(s); and (7) have a hot-holding thermometer or temperature-sensitive tape (thermolabels), flashlight, and individually packaged alcohol swabs.

Establishing priorities. The EHS also needs to establish priorities during the inspection. To begin with, he or she should review previous inspection reports to help detect trends. This is especially important in jurisdictions where inspectors frequently rotate. If the risk factors are out of control for more than one inspection, the EHS needs to work with the operator to develop intervention strategies to eliminate the problem. They also need to conduct a menu review. The menu review will help them to identify high-risk foods or high-risk processes. This review will also help them to assess the operational steps that often go unevaluated. After the menu review, the EHS needs to conduct a quick walk-through. This helps them observe activities that often go unnoticed. Finally, the EHS needs to establish an open dialogue to build a sense of partnership, to promote sharing of information, and to let the operator know what their food safety priorities are.

Assessing active managerial control. The EHS needs to assess critical limits that focus on documented foodborne illness risk factors. These include employee health, personal hygiene program, time-temperature management, cleaning and sanitization of food-contact surfaces, cross-contamination related to storage and preparation, and date marking. If out-of-control risk factors are identified, then the EHS must obtain on-site correction. The onsite corrections should be required for violations relating to risk factors and/or imminent health hazards. The purpose is to eliminate the immediate threat to public health and to convey the seriousness of the violation to the management.

For further questions about the inspection process, one can contact their local health department.