This information has been reviewed and adapted for use in South Carolina by P.H. Schmutz, HGIC Food Safety Specialist, and E.H. Hoyle, Extension Food Safety Specialist, Clemson University. (New 09/99.)
In South Carolina, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is the regulatory agency with the authority to inspect food service operations. The ultimate goal of a food establishment inspection is to prevent foodborne disease. Factors that can affect the occurrence of foodborne illness include:
Inspection is the primary tool a regulatory agency has for detecting procedures and practices that may be hazardous and taking actions to correct deficiencies. Inspections have been a part of food safety regulatory activities since the earliest days of public health. Traditionally, inspections have focused primarily on sanitation. During the late 1980s, some jurisdictions started employing the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach to refocus their inspection. Food safety is also the primary focus of a HACCP approach inspection.
Food service regulations are based on the Food and Drug Administration’s Model Food Code and backed by state law. The Food Code consists of model requirements for safeguarding public health and ensuring food is unadulterated and honestly presented when offered to the consumer. Each jurisdiction decides which part of the Food Code will be adapted as law.
Inspections determine the food establishment’s compliance with the Food Code. Food Code-based laws and ordinances provide inspectors scientifically based rules for food safety. These inspections may be categorized by purpose such as:
Pre-operational Inspection: The Food Code specifies that a pre-operational inspection shall be conducted to ensure that the establishment is built or remodeled in accordance with the approved plans and specifications.
Routine Inspection: Routine inspections should be scheduled at intervals based on risk. These inspections are full reviews of the food establishment operations and facilities and their impact on food safety. They include assessment of:
Detailed reports are prepared at the conclusion of each inspection and presented to the person in charge. Items found not in compliance are categorized as critical or non-critical. Problem areas identified but not improved after a previous inspection are also noted.
Follow-up Inspection: The Food Code specifies that the agency shall verify that critical violations have been corrected within 10 days of the initial routine inspection that detected them.
HACCP Inspection: Establishments operating under a variance requiring a HACCP plan need to be inspected differently. HACCP plans have critical limits that must be routinely monitored and recorded by the establishment. Monitoring and other elements of the plan must be verified by the inspector.
Complaint Inspection: Consumer complaints received about a food establishment are investigated. Quick response is required for those related to foodborne illnesses. Speed is essential to preserve both memories of events and possible food or environmental samples. The regulatory agency’s medical staff could be used to coordinate the collection of appropriate specimens with the complainant’s physician or hospital staff.
HACCP principles can be used to supplement traditional procedures for investigation of foodborne illness com-plaints to help the inspector focus on possible causes and gather better data. These help focus the investigation on foods that have been epidemiologically linked with illness. Other foods should not be completely dismissed because as more becomes known about the causes of foodborne illness, foods that may not have been historically linked to illnesses are being implicated.
The food service operation inspector will look for adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs) based on the Food Code that help prevent food safety hazards from occurring. In general, standard operating procedures should ensure that:
SOPs to Control Contamination of Food: Procedures must be in place to ensure that proper personnel health and hygienic practices are implemented including:
SOPs to Control Microbial Growth: These procedures ensure that all potentially hazardous food is received and stored at a refrigerated temperature of 41 °F or below.
SOPs to Maintain Equipment: These procedures ensure that:
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