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Health inspection basics

The health inspection

Health inspections are designed to protect the dining public from food related illnesses that can result if foods are not handled or prepared properly. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the main governing body for America's food handling processes. The FDA Food Code outlines specific rules on which state and county health departments model their retail food regulations.

The health inspector

Health inspections are conducted by government officials at either the federal, state or local level. The typical health inspector has a college science degree and is a specialist trained in
proper food quality, maintenance and preparation practices. The main tasks of a health inspector include the following:
  • Educate restaurateurs and staff on safe food handling and preparation.
  • Conduct inspections of food service establishments to assure local, state and federal health codes are being followed.
  • Issue citations or fines in cases of egregious violation. Collect samples, if necessary, to trace the possible sources of a food poisoning outbreak.
  • Prepare inspection reports that are available online or on public record.

Types of health inspections

Though health regulations and inspection processes can vary, there are at least three types of health inspections that can occur at any establishment.

  • Routine inspection - during this unannounced visit, the inspector looks at all aspects of an establishment to assure compliance with the local food regulations. Everything from employee handwashing practices to dumpster lids are looked at during routine inspections.
  • Complaint inspection - usually a customer has either become sick or filed a complaint about possible unsafe practices. Just because a complaint has been filed does not mean the condition
    exists, but you can be assured the inspector will give your facility the white glove treatment and can take samples of questionable material.
  • Follow-up inspection - this inspection will occur after an establishment has been given a certain amount of time to correct critical violations. If the inspector says, “I will be back in two
    weeks to check on your progress”, take them seriously.

Note: This article is a generalization of the health inspection process. Please reference your local Food Code or health department for specific governing rules and procedures.


  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) governs America’s food handling processes.
  • Health inspectors are trained government officials.
  • There are generally three types of health inspection.
    • Routine
    • Complaint
    • Follow-up