7 Restaurant Health Code Violations and How to Avoid Them
Any business or organization responsible for foodservice is subject to regular inspection. Health code inspections ensure that state and federal food-management guidelines are met, to keep restaurant employees and guests safe.
Restaurants found to be in violation may face penalties until problems are resolved. Some issues can be fixed by restaurant owners or managers on the spot, while other, more serious violations require a follow-up inspection to confirm changes have been made in adherence with regulations.
In most circumstances, restaurants are also subject to penalties of a varying degree, depending on the severity of the infraction. Reference some of the most common restaurant health code violations below, alongside suggestions for how to avoid each.
1. Poor Personal Hygiene
Restaurants are encouraged to maintain quality personal hygiene, behaviors that can help eliminate the spread of potential disease and keep food and surfaces clean for use. Following personal hygiene standards established by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration is important for the protection of all restaurant guests and employees. When restaurants fail to accommodate these standards, they risk incurring a health code violation and further penalties.
- Insufficient hand-washing techniques;
- Wearing intrusive jewelry, like rings or watches, while at work
- Use of the wrong sink for personal cleansing;
- Missing hairnets from restaurant staff members on food lines;
- Exposed employee meals in places of work.
How to Avoid a Personal Hygiene Violation
Restaurants that foster proactive habits in staff members can work to avoid personal hygiene health code violations. Specifically, restaurant owners and managers should regularly update staff members on the newest sanitation best practices, and gauge feedback on how well the restaurants accommodate current cleanliness standards.
Providing staff members with a straightforward personal hygiene checklist — including basic tasks that include wearing a hairnet, hand washing, and cleanliness checks — can go a long way toward preventing personal hygiene violations as a team.
2. Poor Kitchen Sanitation
As far as the general cleanliness of the kitchen goes, kitchen sanitation includes the washing of all commonly-used kitchen areas, surfaces, tables, and other areas frequented by guests or restaurant staff members. Without adequate kitchen sanitation, dirty areas become ripe for mold and other infectious agents, making attention to detail important when it comes to cleaning.
Following standard kitchen sanitation practices can help your restaurant reach long-term success. Just as easily, poor kitchen sanitation can lead to violations, fines, and the eventual closure of your business.
- Collections of mold, mildew, or residue in the corners or along the bottom of food storage containers, ice bins, and other receptacles;
- Unaddressed grease on commonly-used utilities;
- Sticky or neglected soda fountain machines, particularly nozzles;
- Adopting incorrect mold remediation practices, that can make your situation worse;
- Incorrect, or incomplete, sanitation of utensils or dishware;
- Rotting food.
How to Avoid a Kitchen Sanitation Violation
One of the first steps in avoiding a kitchen sanitation health code violation is securing regular mold remediation services from a quality provider. You’ll be provided personalized advice regarding any upcoming local or state health examinations, alongside all the resources you need to guarantee complete mold removal. And if flooding has potentially compromised building structure, or you’re worried that mold or other issues remain after waters receded, water damage restoration can ease concerns and help align your restaurant with current kitchen sanitation codes.
A checklist is often key when it comes to avoiding kitchen sanitation violations. Since staff is likely responsible for a majority of the food handling and immediate operations, taking steps to educate employees on proper kitchen sanitation strategies can help guard against slimy ice bins, greasy oven burners, and moldy refrigerator interiors.
3. Time and Temperature Control
Commonly referred to as “TTC,” time and temperature control means storing foods at correct temperatures, and paying attention to storage durations. Whether your food is cooked or raw, time and temperature control helps restaurant managers and owners avoid spoiled ingredients and unsafe meals.
Failure to adhere to proper time and temperature control parameters can quickly compromise the success of any restaurant. That’s why health inspectors will take the time during routine health inspections to test for the proper time and temperature control practices, also checking the temperatures at which foods are stored and prepared.
- Lack of time and temperature-specific labeling on foods;
- Neglected foods left out for unidentified or excessive amounts of time;
- Frozen, time-sensitive foods left to thaw or decay on shared surfaces;
- Improper temperatures set for food storage, that can allow for stagnant moisture and black mold growth;
- Use of dysfunctional or non-validated thermometers.
How to Avoid a Time and Temperature Control Violation
Avoiding time and temperature infractions is made easier once restaurant owners create and implement a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) plan. No matter your restaurant’s size or income, every restaurateur can benefit from a solid HACCP plan that ensures time and temperature control health codes are followed.
In addition to hazard analysis steps, time and temperature control can also be established when restaurant owners take steps to thoroughly train employees on the use of all temperature-related instruments — including meat thermometers. All staff should also follow a consistent food labeling system, that identifies, at minimum, contained foods and anticipated expiration dates.
4. Improper Food Storage
The improper storage of food items can quickly mean health code infractions for your restaurant. In general, any food items not actively in use should be properly stored to prevent food from spoiling, spilling, or contaminating other ingredients.
When searching for improper food storage violations, health code inspectors look not only for adequate container use at proper temperatures but also for a present and consistent labeling system. Foods stored in refrigerators must also be arranged by storage order. The order, from top to bottom, is: foods ready to consume, seafood, raw beef and pork, ground meat and poultry, then raw and ground poultry.
- Inconsistent, incomplete, or missing food labeling practices;
- Use of containers not approved for food;
- Storage of food in unsealed containers;
- Storage of food containers in incorrect locations;
- Refrigerator storage of food containers in an incorrect order.
How to Avoid a Food Storage Violation
Proper staff training can help you altogether eliminate the possibility of improper food storage. Adoption of a consistent food labeling process eliminates the possibility of label-based misunderstandings, and daily checks on stored foods can help prevent spoiled foods from counting toward health code violations.
5. Chemical Use and Storage
The use of chemicals around the kitchen is hardly new. Oftentimes, the process of cleaning a large kitchen involves the use of high-grade cleaning chemicals to sterilize and prepare surfaces, utensils, dishware, and other items for future use.
The chemical-use-and-storage component of a restaurant health inspection deals mainly with the proper employment of chemicals around food. Whether it’s an out-of-place spray bottle, an unlabeled container of disinfectant, or even a misplaced mop, chemical use and storage violations can mean serious fines, and the possibility of chemically contaminated foods.
- Unlabeled or mislabeled chemicals;
- Improperly stored chemicals;
- Outdated safety data sheets and chemical information;
- Storage of chemicals in excessive proximity to foods;
- The incorrect concentration of liquid cleaning supplies.
How to Avoid a Chemical Use and Storage Violation
The potential for food contamination from misplaced chemicals calls for careful avoidance of chemical use and storage violations. Safety data sheets — simple-to-use tables that allow staff to identify characteristics of each chemical — keep chemicals properly labeled, stored, and accounted for.
If chemicals in your restaurant have spilled, or you need to properly dispose of used chemicals, biohazard cleaning services can help restore your restaurant to code and help you remove chemicals from your business in a safe, efficient manner. Restaurant staff should also learn to recognize suspect odors, to identify potential biohazards that might be maturing.
6. Improper Tool and Utensil Storage
After a restaurant’s tools and utensils are used, washed, and otherwise prepared again for use, it’s important that they are correctly stored. Health inspectors searching for violations in a restaurant setting can impose penalties if any tool or utensil is left in an incorrect location, or if it has been stored incorrectly.
Proper tool and utensil storage are important for a restaurant’s success. Items that are left out can risk contact with foods, surfaces, and other kitchen resources, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.
- Storing used utensils in dipper wells without the required running water;
- Drying utensils with a towel, instead of an air-drying process;
- Stacking cutting boards, instead of storing them vertically;
- Stowing clean knives together, instead of in a knife holder;
- Storing utensils in convenient locations, instead of in designated spaces.
How to Avoid an Improper Tool and Utensil Storage Violation
Staff awareness is critical for any restaurant owners or managers looking to avoid improper tool and utensil storage violations. No matter the size of your kitchen, make sure that all utensils have nominated locations, where they should be returned after use. All staff should be aware of these storage locations.
Cross-contamination takes place whenever bacteria or other harmful microorganisms are accidentally transferred from one location to another. In kitchens, this can mean the unintentional transfer of food particles, chemical contaminants, or simply bacteria from unwashed hands. Whenever food is prepared, handled, served, or stored, cross-contamination is a legitimate risk.
Whether it’s the cross-contamination of pathogens or harmful glass particles, this type of contamination can immediately harm guests in many ways. As one of the most important facets of food handling and safety protocol, cross-contamination is a major focus for any restaurant health inspector.
- Shared cutting board use without sufficient washing between different types of raw ingredients;
- The use of miscellaneous containers to scoop ice;
- Unsafe handling of dishware without gloves or other protection;
- Reuse of soiled towels;
- Reuse of unclean utensils without proper washing and drying.
How to Avoid a Cross-Contamination Violation
Restaurant owners must take steps to avoid cross-contamination violations. Employees are taught how to avoid cross-contamination if they participate in a food handler’s certification course. Even if you don’t require employees to complete some sort of food safety course, walking staff through the basics of the correct cutting board and knife usage can go a long way toward necessary cross-contamination prevention.
Staying Ahead of Inspection Violations
Restaurant owners and managers need to remain vigilant in their adherence to health codes, to protect both restaurant guests and employees.
These continued sanitation awareness efforts could include:
- Teaching restaurant staff correct sanitation practices;
- Requiring all utensils and cleaning supplies to be returned to designated locations before nightly closing;
- Daily checks to all food and chemical labels, to gauge the safety of continued use;
- Regular commercial restaurant cleaning services to help you guard against all kinds of biological contaminants;
- Integration of a regular cleaning schedule, for both kitchen and seating areas;
- Keeping contact information for reputed 24-hour emergency restoration services accessible in the kitchen, in case of urgent health code risks.
- Dedicated time to deep-clean all restaurant bathrooms, and allow them time to air dry.