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Three Ways to Prepare for a Health Inspection

Whether you're in food processing, industrial manufacturing or at the operations level of restaurant management, health inspections happen. They usually occur two or three times a year - depending on the industry, and in many cases, can make or break the future of your business. Though it may be tempting to put off certain repairs or overlook a few minor health violations in the hopes that inspectors will not visit today, the better practice is to treat every day as the day an inspector will show up.

The best way to prepare for an inspection is by performing a self-inspection every week. Here are three ways you can start preparing for a health inspection today:

Have the proper tools

You can't expect to be able to do a proper self-inspection unless you have the same tools the pros are using. Some common tools inspectors carry include a flashlight, clipboard, alcohol wipes, chemical test strips, inspection forms and a meat thermometer. (In the case of industrial manufacturing, that list may be longer.) Create your own inspection kit and use it.

Everything in your kit should be kept organized and in working order. When it comes to thermometers, it's important to keep them clean, calibrated and readily available. Wipe the probes clean after each use, keep the housing clean by wiping away any grease or grime and calibrate (if needed) once a week with an ice bath.

Quiz Employees

During an inspection, health officials will often ask employees questions about the task they are currently performing. In the case of a chef, inspectors will ask about USDA recommended minimum internal temperatures. This may include the recommended temperatures for chicken, fish, beef and ground meats.

Asking workers task oriented and safety questions throughout the week will keep the knowledge fresh in their minds and help gauge if your training techniques are effective. Making available chef-recommended and USDA recommended temperature charts is also a great way to ensure that your BOH staff are ready for temperature questions.

Check the records

A good inspector will ask for employee illness, hand washing, training, temperature and HACCP records to assure that you are properly monitoring safety practices. Taking time to check over these records yourself keeps them properly ordered and on-hand for when the inspector arrives.

Outfit your operation with plenty of thermometers. When the time comes to record temperatures, you won't want your employees scrambling to find one. It's always a good idea to have at least 10 thermometers on hand. One in every chef's jacket, a few for the prep area and one to keep in the office. The more thermometers you have, the better able you'll be to ensure that temperatures are being taken.

There's no crystal ball that will tell you when an inspector is going to show up. You must always be ready. If you create an atmosphere that breeds health and safety, there's no doubt - when the time comes - you'll be prepared to pass.