News & Blog

Passing Your Next Food Inspection: the FDA's Five Red Flags


Passing Your Next Food Inspection: the FDA's Five Red Flags

As a restaurant owner, it can be hard to wrap your head around the best ways to pass food inspections. For starters, it’s a fairly complicated system with many different department heads, methods for inspection, and even if every rule isn’t followed to the “t”, your score will be published to your municipality’s website after the fact for all to see (just a simple search for City of Austin Health Inspections gives us access to an entire database of restaurants with scores listed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- or USDA).

Just how confusing is the system? Well, for example, inspection and grading for meat and poultry is managed under two separate departments. According to the USDA website, “inspection for wholesomeness is mandatory and is paid for with public funds. Grading for quality is voluntary, and the service is requested and paid for by meat and poultry producers/processors.”

And regardless of how confusing the system might be or how nerve-wracking it is to pass the program, health inspections are always on the mind for managers and restaurant owners looking to keep stock of quality inventory, enforce proper workstation standards, or for those looking to update standard practices.

As we previously mentioned, health inspectors review everything during an inspection, but they typically start with the FDA’s five red flags—the five risk factors that most commonly cause food disease outbreaks.

  1. Improper Holding Temperatures. Follow proscribed holding temperatures for heated, refrigerated and frozen foods. For example, you must keep your freezer at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Most meats can last 3-4 months in a properly-kept freezer, while salads can only last 3-4 days.
  2. Inadequate Cooking Times. Comply with cooking temperatures and times for all foods served to the public. For example, the minimum safe cooking temperature for pork and ham is 145 degrees Fahrenheit. However, not all meats are the same: the minimum safe cooking temperature for ground meat, beef, veal and lamb is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Contaminated Equipment. Avoid cross-contamination by keeping products separate and surfaces clean. Dedicate one workstation (including cutting boards, knives and other items) to meats and poultry, and another workstation to vegetables. Make sure to wash all items thoroughly in hot water after each use.
  4. Food from Unsafe Sources. Know who supplies products to your business or restaurant to mitigate food safety and ethical concerns.
  5. Poor Personal Hygiene. Teach and require employees to follow hygiene standards. Employees should wash hands in hot water for more than 30 seconds after switching between meats and veggies, and also after each break.

Check out our infographic for more information on the five red flags the FDA looks for during each health inspection. For those looking to get food handler certified, you can sign up for a course from Responsible Training today!