How to Prepare Your Commercial Kitchen for a Health Inspection

Surprise inspections are unavoidable in commercial kitchens. You should expect to see a local inspector between 1 and 4 times each year, armed with a set of health regulations and food-handling requirements used to grade your establishment. Are you confident that you will pass? Below are a few straightforward ways to prepare.

Know the Rules
Every four years, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) publishes the Food Code, a set of best practices that serve as a reference base for state and local health codes. Make sure you and your employees are knowledgeable of the Food Code, your local regulations and any changes to either.

Be Aware of the Most Common Violations
Keep an eye out for key safety issues. These are the most common mistakes made in commercial kitchens:

  • Holding food too long in the danger zone (41°-135° Fahrenheit)
  • Storing food items improperly, allowing cross-contamination
  • Skipping personal hygiene steps
  • Not cleaning equipment thoroughly or frequently enough
  • Allowing pests in

Develop a Maintenance Checklist
Make a checklist of tasks that need to be done daily to keep your commercial kitchen in compliance with health standards. Make sure your staff understands who is responsible for tasks and that they are regularly completed. A list might include: sanitizing surfaces, cleaning kitchen equipment, emptying trash bins, cleaning floors, ensuring ingredients and prepared food are properly put away, etc.

Make Sure All Kitchen Workers and Staff are Certified
There are a variety of programs available to educate and test your employees on safe food-handling practices. Check to see if your state has special tests and requirements for specific food-related roles.

Conduct Self-Inspections
Hold your own inspections at random, unannounced times to uncover potential issues and ensure your staff follows good health and safety practices. Our printable checklist is a guide to ensuring your commercial kitchen is ready for its next health inspection.

Health Inspection Checklist 

Food Storage

  • Chemicals and food are kept separate
  • Food is stored at least six inches off the ground in a clean, dry location
  • Raw meats or other dripping, uncooked food is not stored above ready-to-eat items
  • Food is properly wrapped or containerized to prevent contamination
  • All food items are labeled with name and delivery date
  • Thermometers in freezer and refrigerator are clearly visible and working properly
  • Refrigeration temperature is within food safe range (40°F or below)
  • Food is used by the FIFO (first in, first out) method

Food Preparation

  • Food is protected from cross-contamination through the use of separate cutting boards, utensils, etc.
  • Frozen food is thawed properly
  • All cooked food, especially raw meats, poultry and fish, are heated to the safe minimum internal temperature
  • A food thermometer is used to ensure cooked foods are within the safe range

Staff Personal Hygiene

  • Employees wash hands in a designated handwashing sink using proper handwashing techniques (at least 20 seconds in 100°F water)
  • Employees wash hands after sneezing, coughing, blowing their nose or using the restroom
  • Sick employees are sent home
  • Cuts and wounds are covered
  • Jewelry on hands and arms is limited to plain band rings and watches
  • Employees wash hands and/or put on a new pair of single-use gloves at the start of each new task, such as working with raw food, handling money, switching between stations
  • Kitchen employees’ hair is covered, including facial hair
  • Employees wear closed-toe shoes

Sanitation

  • Small equipment and utensils are cleaned between uses
  • Sanitizer is mixed to the recommended concentration in water heated to the correct temperature according to manufacturer’s instructions
  • All kitchen equipment and prep surfaces are clean
  • Garbage is disposed of promptly and properly

Pest Prevention

  • Visible holes and cracks in walls or under doors are filled or covered
  • Shelved food is stored in tight containers
  • Floors are clear of crumbs or spillage overnight
  • Garbage bins are cleaned regularly
  • Outside trash receptacles have tight-fitting lids
  • Dumpsters, debris and rodent-sheltering shrubbery are away from all doorways
  • Non-poisonous traps are set inside

We provide this above article for general informational purposes only and not as legal or regulatory advice. This article does not constitute legal or other professional advice, and no attorney-client or other relationship is created hereby. Do not consider the above to be a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney licensed in your state or for obtaining regulatory advice regarding local or other regulatory requirements that apply to your facility. Significant local variances may apply to your facility, and requirements may change over time. This article is current as of its publication date and will not be updated for changes in law or regulations.