Protecting the safety of retail food is a serious responsibility. Throughout Missouri, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and local public health agencies regulate more than 30,000 food establishments or food processing plants. Routine and follow-up inspections are conducted to assure that these facilities are preparing, handling, serving, and/or storing food that is safe for consumption.
Food establishments are inspected according to the Missouri Food Code. How often an establishment is inspected is determined by risk – type of food prepared, population served, difficulty level of food preparation, inspection history. Restaurants preparing food from raw ingredients are inspected more often than convenience stores selling only non-potentially hazardous foods such as soda and pre-packaged food.
When the Environmental Public Health Specialist (EPHS) inspects a food establishment, they look for how well the owner, manager, and employees are following the Food Code. Deficiencies are written as violations. Violations can be priority (critical) or core (non-critical).
Critical violations can directly impact food safety and include items such as: cross contamination between raw and ready-to-eat foods, touching ready-to-eat food with bare hands, food from an unapproved source, improper food temperatures, a lack of food safety knowledge by the Person in Charge, and poor personal hygiene and employee health. Every attempt will be made to see that critical violations are corrected at the time of inspection. If that is not possible, the establishment will be given a short timeframe in which to correct all critical items. If there is an imminent health risk to the public, the establishment will close until that risk has been eliminated.
Non-critical violations are important, but usually do not directly impact food safety. These include items such as dirty floors, dirty non-food contact equipment and surfaces, facility and/or equipment repair issues, sticky tabletops, and clutter.
The Harrison County Health Department offers online food safety training through StateFoodSafety.com. While some establishments have their own food safety training, the goal of the health department is to encourage anyone working in food service to complete the online course. When an establishment has succeeded in having all employees and managers trained, it will be included on the HCHD website for the benefit of the public.