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Published: Sunday, 11/12/2000

What food inspectors look for

Food at restaurants and other food-preparation sites is inspected at least once a year. How often a site is inspected depends on what type of food preparation it does. Large restaurants or kitchens might be inspected as many as four times a year under new state rules, while a small convenience store selling hot dogs might be inspected only once a year.

Here are some of the things food-safety inspectors look for. They can vary from site to site:

  • Time and temperature: Food must be stored at hot enough or cold enough temperatures. Also, food must be brought to a safe temperature within a certain time. For example, inspectors look to see how long it takes a hot dish placed in a refrigerator to reach a safe cool level. Time also applies to how long food is left at room temperature.

  • Food handling: Inspectors look for signs of cross-contamination and other dangers. They don't want vegetables, for example, prepared with the same utensils that are used to prepare raw meat. In addition, inspectors look at how well something is cooked: Hamburger must be well done, for example.

  • General cleanliness: Can include everything from how clean the kitchen is to how well the dishwasher is working.

  • Employee health: It's unsafe to have sick workers prepare food.

  • Food-preparation process: In some cases, inspectors follow the food-preparation process from start to finish. They'll watch a chef take the raw product and follow the chef throughout the preparation process until the plate is set before the customer.

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