The Bureau of
Sanitation and Safety Inspections conducts regular inspections
of public food service establishments to assure compliance with
all state sanitation and safety laws. By law, such
establishments must receive a minimum of two unannounced
inspections per year. The division strives for at least three,
more if necessary. Florida is the only southern state that
licenses and inspects restaurants on a statewide, not
The Bureau of
Sanitation and Safety Inspections employs Sanitation and
Safety Specialists ("inspectors") who must be trained by a
food service evaluation officer certified by the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration. The inspector also must demonstrate a
thorough knowledge of the Florida public food service laws and
rules by passing administered practice tests and examinations,
including the Certified Food Manager's exam -- the same exam
taken by the restaurant managers. The inspector also must
complete 20 hours of continuing education annually and must
become certified as a special fire safety inspector by the State
Although all parts
of the facility inspection are important, hand washing, food
temperatures and food handling practices are of critical
concern, and the inspector places major emphasis on these areas
when conducting the inspection. Other areas covered during the
inspection include: hot and cold food holding; food protection;
food equipment and utensils; water and sewage; plumbing; toilet
and wash facilities; garbage and refuse disposal; insect/rodent
control; floors, walls and ceilings; lighting; ventilation;
dressing rooms; and general safety.
conducts an inspection using the 60-item inspection checklist.
He brings the appropriate field equipment such as a probe
thermometer, alcohol swabs, registering thermometer and/or
heat-sensitive tapes, a flashlight and test papers -- chlorine,
iodine and quaternary ammonia (chlorine, iodine and quaternary
ammonia are sanitizing agents).
Once on the
premises, the inspector introduces himself to the restaurant
manager and displays his official State of Florida
identification. The inspector obtains the assurance of access to
all areas that require inspection. The inspector invites the
manager to accompany him on the inspection, and also offers to
go over each item on the inspection report with the manager when
the inspection is concluded.
inspector looks for the establishment's state license. He checks
the expiration date and compares the seating capacity on the
license with the actual number of seats in the restaurant. The
current ownership and business name are also verified, as are
the alcoholic beverage license (if applicable) and the county
occupational licenses. The inspector will then check for the
Certified Food Managers' licenses and compare it with the list
of food managers required to be maintained by the establishment.
He also will ask to see the most recent inspection report the
restaurant must keep on the premises to show to any patron who
requests to see it.
begins the actual inspection by perusing the surrounding areas
of the restaurant. The inspector examines the rear of the
building. He looks to see if the exit door opens outward, is
self-closing, tight fitting, and vermin-proof. Does the garbage
storage contain plastic bags or wet-strength paper bags? Does
the dumpster lid close and are the plugs intact? Is the dumpster
without leaks and rust? Do the dumpster, compactor and grease
receptacles contain non-absorbent pads? Is a mop facility
provided and in good repair? Is there any evidence of dumping
waste water or grease onto the ground? Does the faucet designed
to accept hoses contain a backflow protection device? The
inspector also will note excessive deterioration of eaves or
broken windows, etc., that may allow vermin to enter.
verifies the sewage disposal system of the establishment and
records this information on the report. Has the system been
approved and does it operate in a safe and sanitary manner?
Next, the source of potable water for the establishment is
verified and recorded on the report. Has the source been
approved and is the supply adequate and sanitary? If a well
serves an establishment, the inspector checks that the pump
equipment is operational.
That complete, the
sanitation and safety inspector moves back inside. Is the dry
food/supply storage system suitable and adequately illuminated?
What is the source and condition of the food? Are the shelves
adequately ventilated and clean? Are food items stored and
shelved properly? Are toxic materials (cleaning chemicals, etc.)
stored and shelved properly? Are the walls, ceilings, floors and
shelves constructed of the proper materials? Are there signs of
inspects the refrigeration and freezer. What is the temperature,
source, and condition of the food? Is it stored properly? Is the
refrigeration suitable? Are the inside refrigerator lights
adequate and shielded? Are thermometers provided and accurate?
Is the refrigerator clean, in good shape and without leaks?
Now, the most
important part of the inspection -- the actual food preparation
area. The inspector washes his hands before entering that area.
While doing so, the inspector checks that hot and cold water,
soap and towels are provided. He also notes if the plumbing is
inspector is in the food preparation area, staff food
handling procedures are closely observed -- how food is
stored, prepared and served. The inspector checks and records
food temperatures, both hot and cold. How and when were the
foods prepared? Were safe thawing practices followed? Have foods
been contaminated by infected workers or from other sources,
including cross-contamination? Does the potential exist for
contamination of cooked food with soiled equipment and utensils?
The inspector also
observes certain food items that have a higher potential for
risk of mishandling due to large volume or multiple-step
preparation. Some foods are more potentially hazardous than
others and receive extra scrutiny: turkey, ham, roast beef,
chicken, potato salad, gravy, barbecue beef and ribs, sausage,
raw eggs, pork, macaroni salad, tuna salad, stew, soup, egg
rolls and fried won-ton.
inspection of the food preparation facilities is conducted. The
inspector examines the condition of the stove, grill and
deep-fat fryers. More specific areas such as the hoods, filters,
vent ducts and ventilation fan will be examined. Additionally,
the inspector will check the adequacy, condition and quality of
the lighting system. The inspector looks at the fixed fire
suppression systems and portable extinguishers, noting the dates
they were last examined and tagged.
The condition of
the walls, duckboards and mats in the embedded vicinity of the
food preparation area is also noted. The inspector examines the
condition of the food preparation tabletops, cutting boards and
meat blocks as well as the condition and cleanliness of
equipment and utensils used for food preparation. Are all hot
food storage areas adequate? Are probe thermometers available
and accurate? Are can openers, cooking utensils, storage drawers
and shelves, knives and cooking containers free of food residue
or any other dirt and grime?
An inspection of
the operational facilities of the food service establishment,
such as the dishwasher, dishwashing sink, and restroom
facilities is conducted. The inspector looks at all mechanisms
of the dishwasher to ensure they are clean, operational and at
set standards. If there is no dishwasher, the dishwashing sink
must contain the proper number of compartments, adequate
sanitizing solution, and a test kit to monitor its strength.
Faucets for the cross-connections should be designed to accept
hoses provided with backflow prevention devices.
What about the ice
machine -- is it clean and in good shape? How is the ice made?
Is its scoop handle sitting out of the ice?
examines the restrooms. He checks their adequacy, condition and
cleanliness. Are they well ventilated? Does everything work,
including soap and towel dispensers? If the restroom is used by
employees, it must have both hot and cold water, and the
inspector makes sure both are working. He looks for the
"employees must wash their hands before leaving" sign that must
be posted in a conspicuous place.
hygiene of food handlers is carefully observed by the inspector.
Are the food handlers clean and well-groomed, wear clean clothes
and effective hair restraints? Does employee behavior result in
contamination of food or food contact surfaces? Do employees
thoroughly wash their hands? Do they do so in sinks other than a
specified hand wash sink? In short, do the food handlers observe
safe food handling practices?
inspection is completed, a process that takes about an hour, the
results are analyzed to help prepare an "action plan" for the
manager of the establishment when violations are found. The
inspector explains the violations, and makes certain the manager
understands what corrective action must be taken to be in
compliance with the law. Non-critical violations must be
corrected by the next routine inspection. The inspector asks the
operator to review and sign the inspection report.
violations are found, the inspector advises the manager he will
return sooner to ensure that the violations have been corrected.
If they are not, warnings of disciplinary action will ensue. If
the uncorrected problems could pose an immediate threat to
public health and safety, an emergency closure could be ordered.