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A day in the life of a food safety inspector

When you go out to eat, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting sick. Our Food & Community Safety program works to make sure you don’t have to. I’m one of 13 food safety inspectors. We each inspect about 700 establishments annually.

We’re at work every day inspecting food establishments across the county to help provide a safe dining experience for you and your family.

Inspection history is important.

Before I inspect a food establishment, I look at their last inspection report. If there were violations, I’ll check more of their reports. When I inspect, I want to make sure they aren’t repeating the same issues. This could put their customers at risk.

What do we look for?

I want to make sure people have safe dining experiences. First, I look for any gaps in food safety practices that can make people sick. For example, bacteria that can make us sick love temperatures that are not hot or cold enough. So, I check to make sure workers are storing and cooking food at safe temperatures.

Bacteria also spread when food workers touch ready-to-eat food with their bare hands, cool hot food too slowly, work when they are sick, or don’t wash their hands properly. I correct these violations on the spot if I see them and make sure the person in charge knows the steps to take to make fixes.

I also keep an eye on cleanliness, like dirty floors and walls. While unsightly, these issues might not make you sick, but they can interfere with food safety practices.

A restaurant worker holds a tray of raw chicken while a food inspector uses a thermometer to check the temperature.

We work with the establishment.

Once I’m done with the inspection, I review the report with the person in charge. We talk about violations that occurred, and I educate them on how to make improvements. If I see too many violations, I come back within 2 weeks. At the follow-up inspection, I make sure the issues remain fixed.

People might get nervous during inspections, but my role is to help. I educate food workers on food safety and help prevent people from getting sick. I encourage food workers to ask questions and I am happy to explain food safety practices.

It’s very satisfying when I return for an inspection and see the improvements to food safety. I know local diners will benefit when they only take home a full stomach—and not a foodborne illness.

When to wash hands

Call in sick food worker RussianEasy-to-understand, reliable information.

We want to make sure all establishment owners get the same chance to learn about and improve food safety. Our easy-to-understand materials use images to share food safety messages—clearly and simply. Food safety materials can be translated into many different languages when needed. Sometimes, I even bring along a translator to make conversations easier.

When do we close a business?

We close a business if they repeat the same violations or we see an immediate health risk. Health risks include:

  • Sewage backup.
  • Fire, flood or power outage.
  • Lack of refrigeration.
  • No hot water.
  • Restroom not working.
  • Foodborne illness outbreak.

Once the owner has made the fixes, we return for a re-inspection as quickly as possible so the restaurant can reopen.

We serve you!

Every day is different. I meet new people and have interesting conversations with owners and workers. I get to see all kinds of food and how different cultures prepare it. I also help keep our community healthy, which feels great.