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Restaurant Inspections

Have you ever wondered about the people and places that prepare your food?

Restaurants in the U.S. and elsewhere are subject to local inspection conducted by the health department governing their location. The inspection generally rates restaurants on a 100pt scale, in most cases.
For example in the city of New York.

How violation points work:
The lower the number of points accrued by a restaurant during an inspection, the better the inspection result.
The Health Department inspects restaurants, and assigns violation points for every violation observed, depending on the severity and extent of the violation. A score of 27 or less is needed for a restaurant to pass the inspection. Restaurants with scores of 28 or more are re-inspected.

Restaurant Inspection Information

Glossary of Terms, things that are looked at.

Ambient temperature:
The temperature of the immediately surrounding environment. Ambient room temperature ranges from 68º F to 77º F.
Disease transmissible by food:
Any number of illnesses in which food acts as the vehicle for an agent capable of causing food borne disease. Examples of diseases transmissible through food include Amebiasis, Botulism, Cholera, Campylobactor, Cryptosporidiosis, Cyclospora, E. coli 0157:H7, Giardiasis. Hepatitis A, Listeriosis, Salmonella infections, Shigellosis, Trichinosis, Typhoid fever, Yersiniosis.
Foodborne illness:
Term applied to an illness acquired as the result of the consumption of contaminated foods; commonly and incorrectly referred to as "food poisoning." Food borne Illness may be caused by bacteria, toxic products of bacteria, viruses, parasites, chemicals, as well as poisons naturally occurring in some animals and plants.
Food Vendor License:
Photo ID issued by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that acknowledges a licensed street vendor. The individual must wear the Photo ID card while vending.
Food Protection Certificate:
Certificate awarded to an individual who has successfully completed a course in food protection at the Health Academy of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The course covers various aspects of safe food processing as well as the applicable rules, regulations and inspection procedures. Individuals may also be certified by the Department upon successful completion of an equivalent course offered by the New York State Restaurant Association and an additional three hours at the Health Academy. A certified individual is required to be on site at all times that the establishment is in operation and is expected to oversee all aspects of the food processing activities.
Immediate action:
Most violations must be corrected at the time of the inspection with the inspector present, or the establishment is closed and all food service is stopped immediately. Actions taken to correct these violations, at the direction of the on site inspector, vary with the specific circumstances under which the violation occurs and may include rapidly reheating a food item, rapidly cooling a food item, discarding a food item, excluding a sick food worker or closure of the establishment if the violation can not be immediately corrected. Conditions in this category include the following:
  • Food not cooked to required minimum temperature:
    • Poultry, meat stuffing, stuffed meats - 165º F
    • Ground meat and food containing ground meat - 158º F
    • Pork, any food containing pork - 155º F
    • Rare roast beef, rare beefsteak except per individual customer request - cooked to less than required temperature.
    • All other foods, except shell eggs per individual customer request - 145º F
  • Hot food not held at or above 140º F
  • Cold food held above 41º F (smoked fish above 38º F) except during necessary preparation.
  • Food not cooled by an approved method whereby the internal product temperature is reduced from 140º F to 70º F or less within 2 hours and from 70º F to 41º F or less within 4 additional hours.
  • Food from unapproved or unknown source, spoiled, adulterated, or home canned.
  • Shellfish not from approved source, improperly tagged/labeled; tags not retained for 90 days.
  • Eggs found dirty, cracked; liquid, frozen or powdered eggs not pasteurized.
  • Canned food product observed swollen, leaking, rusted, severely dented.
  • Potable water supply inadequate. Water or ice not potable or from unapproved source. Cross connection in potable water supply system observed.
  • Unpasteurized milk or milk product present.
  • Food worker prepares food or handles utensil when ill with a disease transmissible by food, or have exposed infected cut or burn on their hand.
  • Food worker does not use proper utensil to eliminate bare hand contact with food that will not receive adequate additional heat treatment.
  • Toxic chemical improperly labeled, stored or used so that contamination of food may occur.
  • Food, food preparation area, food storage area, area used by employees or patrons, contaminated by sewage or liquid waste.
  • Unprotected potentially hazardous food re-served.
  • Food in contact with utensil, container, or pipe that consist of toxic material.
  • Cooked or prepared food is cross-contaminated.
  • Sewage disposal system improper or unapproved.
  • Harmful, noxious gas or vapor detected. Carbon Monoxide ?13 ppm.
Molluscan shellfish:
Oysters, clams or mussels intended for human consumption, whether shucked or in the shell, whether fresh or frozen; does not include (1) oysters, clams, and mussels which have been dehydrated or which have been sterilized in hermetically sealed containers, or (2) processed shellfish.
Term applied to a substance that is irritating or offensive and that may have a harmful effect on life; a nuisance.
Any condition that is dangerous to human life or detrimental to health. Public health nuisances affect the public, as opposed to a specific individual, and include any act, or failure to act that creates or maintains conditions that render the air, drinking water, environment or food unwholesome. It is unlawful to create a public health nuisance, or for any person to allow a public nuisance to continue.
Term applied to milk or milk products, whole, liquid, frozen, and powdered eggs that have been exposed to a process of pasteurization wherein every particle of the item is heated in properly designed and operated equipment to a specified temperature and then held continuously at or above that temperature for at least the corresponding specified time. Pasteurization eliminates pathogen (disease causing bacteria) contamination.
A permit is a written license and authorization issued by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to carry on specified activities as regulated by the New York City Health Code.
Potable water:
Water from an approved source that meets all drinking water quality standards.
Potentially hazardous food:
Any food that consists in whole or in part of milk or milk products, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, edible Crustacea, cooked potato, cooked rice or other ingredients, including synthetic ingredients, in a form capable of supporting: (1) rapid and progressive growth of infectious, or toxigenic microorganisms; or (2) the slower growth of C. botulinum.
Wastewater generated by commercial, industrial, or domestic use of the water supplied by an establishment that is normally eliminated by the local sewer system. Exposure to sewage may cause disease transmission.
Temporary Food Service Establishment:
Any food service establishment that operates at a fixed location for a temporary period of time, not to exceed 14 consecutive days, in connection with a single event or celebration such as a fair, carnival, circus, public exhibition, religious or fraternal organization function or transitory gathering.
Toxic chemical/material:
A chemical or material that is capable of causing either acute or chronic health problems. Includes common household cleaners.
Insects, rodents, birds, or other animals that may be destructive, annoying, or harmful to health. Includes cockroaches, flies, mice, and rats.

Food Service Establishment Inspections:
Bureau of Food Safety and Community Sanitation (BFSCS) Public Health Sanitarians (PHS) conduct unannounced annual inspections of food service establishments (FSEs). During inspections, PHS's evaluate a FSE's conditions and practices and identify risk factors for food-borne illnesses. These risk factors include:

  • Improper personal hygiene practices and poor food-worker health.
  • Improper hand washing and bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods.
  • Improper cooking, holding, and re-heating temperatures.
  • Cross-contamination of food and food equipment.
  • Food from unapproved sources.

Based on inspection results, PHS's may issue, a Notice of Violation (NOV), (administrative summons) for violations of the New York City (NYC) Health Code, the State Sanitary Code, or other applicable laws. NOVs may result in monetary penalties as determined by the Department's Administrative Tribunal.

The NYC Health Code, particularly Article 81 ("Food Preparation and Food Establishments") and Chapter 23 ("Food Service Establishment Inspection Procedures"), in volume 8 of Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York, lay out the guidelines for operating a safe food service establishment.

FSE Inspection Scoring System:

The Food Service Establishment Inspection Scoring System assesses violation points for each violation and points are accrued as each violation is observed. The scoring system is designed to provide food service operators with a clear understanding of where a problem exists and what they must do to prevent illness or disease. A total of 28 or more points in either critical or general violations requires that a BFSCS PHS perform another inspection to assure that violations have been corrected and the FSE adequately complies with regulations.

The scoring system now in place is described below:

  • A base point value is assigned to each violation. A Public Health Hazard is the most severe type of violation and typically has a base point value of 7; other Critical Violations have a base point value of 5; and General Violations have a base point value of 2. A total of 28 or more points in either public health hazards, critical or general violations requires a follow-up inspection by the DOHMH to determine if the violations have been corrected.
  • Depending on the severity of the violation, additional violation points may be added, so that the final point total reflects the extent and severity of the violation. The more extensive or severe, the violation, the greater the overall point value for that violation.
  • Most violations of any type have five possible Conditions (levels of severity). An additional point is assigned for the first four conditions. The fifth condition primarily reflects a refusal or inability to correct a public health hazard or critical violation immediately. It also may be used for an administrative violation, such as operating a restaurant without a permit.
The following documents (downloadable in PDF format) further detail the NYC DOHMH's current inspection procedures: This is an example, not too unlike the inspection policy of most communities. If you go to the website of your local health department, you'll probably find a link to a listing local restaurants and how they have scored in their inspections. You may be very surprised.
This is a link to the New York City website with restaurant listings.


Anonymous said...

A restaurant can make its life easier by using eggs that are pasteurized in the shell. Just like a regular egg, but no special handling rules!

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