What’s the best way to prepare for your next Chicago restaurant health inspection? The best way is to perform your own.
Self-inspecting your restaurant can help you identify infractions and correct them before a health inspector finds them. More importantly, self-inspections improve food safety, which reduces the possibility of a foodborne outbreak.
How to Identify Infractions Before Your Next Chicago Restaurant Health Inspection
In Chicago, health violations have three different violation categories:
- Minor Violations
- Serious Violations
- Critical Violations
Minor Violations – These violations are not as severe as critical or serious violations, but you should not ignore them. A minor violation is anything that can contribute to food contamination or illness but doesn’t pose an immediate threat to the public. These include:
- Walls, ceilings, or floors that are unclean, broken down, or poorly constructed
- Storing dirty or clean linens, coats, and aprons incorrectly
- Having unauthorized personnel walking around the food-prep area
Serious Violations – Anything that can create a potential health hazard if it’s not dealt within the time specified by the Department of Health. These include:
- Thawing potentially hazardous food incorrectly
- Recycling food to a customer that was already previously served (does not include food that is packaged in its original packaging)
- Not protecting food from contamination during storage, preparation, display, service, and transportation.
Critical Violations – Anything that poses an immediate health hazard that leads to foodborne illness. These include:
- Improper storage temperatures
- Incorrect food handling practices
- Poor personal hygiene
- Rodent or insect infestations
- No running hot water in the facility
10 Food Safety Tips for Your Next Chicago Restaurant Health Inspection
By following these steps, you can prepare to ace your next Chicago restaurant health inspection.
1. Ensure Proper Food Temperature Control
- Chicago health standards require all cold food be kept below 40°F, and all hot food stays above 140°F.
- Make sure refrigerators and freezers have thermometers following those temperature requirements.
- Cook hazardous food, such as meat, to a safe internal temperature by checking with a meat thermometer.
2. Food Storage Must Protect Food from Contamination
- Never store cooked or ready-to-eat food below raw food.
- Make sure to cover food with lids or plastic wrap. Use utensils whenever possible to limit hand contact with prepared food.
- Use clean, potable water when preparing food or mixing drinks and ice.
- Chemicals and pesticides must be appropriately labeled and stored away from food and prep area.
- Food items stay off the floor and are stored on shelves, racks, or pallets.
3. All Employees Must Practice Good Personal Hygiene
- Food handlers must wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds at a minimum before and after handling food.
- Make sure staff has hot and cold running water, hand soap, and paper towels at all washbasins. Washbasins are for handwashing ONLY. Do not prepare food or wash dishes in them.
- Clothes must be clean and hair should be contained
4. Maintain and Sanitize All Surfaces and Equipment in Contact with Food
- Clean and sanitize surfaces and equipment with soap and water. Finish cleaning with a solution of a food-grade sanitizer.
- Discard broken or cracked items like cutting boards or deeply grooved food contact surfaces.
- Wash utensils, dishes, and equipment by hand, by the two or three sink method (wash-rinse-sanitize) or in a dishwasher appliance.
- Don’t forget your commercial ice equipment!
- Empty and clean your ice machine bin regularly. Commercial ice machines require professional cleaning at least twice a year.
5. Clean and Maintain All Non-Food Contact Surfaces and Equipment
- Floors, walls, and ceilings should be clean, smooth, in good condition, and non-absorbent.
- Dishwasher and other appliances must be in good working condition.
6. Keep All Public and Staff Bathrooms Clean and in Good Maintenance
- Keep bathrooms, toilets, and change rooms clean.
- Bathrooms must have toilet paper, a trashcan, hot and cold running water, soap, and paper towels or a hot air dryer by the sink.
7. Properly Store or Dispose of Waste
- Dispose of solid and liquid waste from the food prep area daily.
- Store garbage in a sanitary manner.
- Trashcans must not leak, attract pests, absorb waste, or have loose-fitting lids.
8. Prevent or Eliminate Pests
- Inspect for signs of infestation: live/dead pests, droppings, or nesting sites. Cover openings to prevent pests from entering the workplace.
- Dispose of any food or water sources for pests.
- Make sure to hire a licensed pest control operator to inspect and prevent infestations regularly.
9. Staff Must be Well-Versed in Food Safety
- All food service staff must have food handler training certified through a Food Safety Certification Course. Food handlers should regularly revisit safe food handling practices.
10. Keep Thorough Operational Records
- Keep records of all Chicago restaurant health inspections along with self-inspection reports, pest control visits, and equipment repair and maintenance records. Maintain quality assurance by reviewing records with managers regularly.
Avoid Health Infractions on Your Next Chicago Restaurant Health Inspection
Our health inspection checklist for Chicago restaurants was designed to help you inspect your restaurant regularly for red flags that can lead to a violation. Don’t be surprised during your next inspection! You can relieve a lot of stress by being prepared when the inspector visits next!
Chicago restaurant health inspection grades are public record. Local news outlets and state government sites publish bad scores so customers can be well informed when they go out to eat. Don’t find yourself on that list!