‘Make the Grade’ During Your Next Public Health Inspection

Restaurants that use HACCP as a Tool Find Success 

We live in a highly connected world. Communications cross the globe in mere seconds and spread like wildfire on social media and the 24-hour news cycle.

This readiness of information sharing extends to the foodservice and hospitality industry. More and more, customers can peek behind the kitchen door of any restaurant and step into the health inspector’s shoes to see what they see.

“Name and shame” is a type of vigilance that’s gaining momentum in the food sector. In 2013, China announced legislation that would publicly list food safety violators on government websites. The New South Wales Food Authority regularly publishes the names of establishments that have or are alleged to have violations following a health inspection.

In some cases, it’s no longer just a choice of Thai or Italian, fast food or fine dining. Some consumers will now ask: are you making the grade?

Make HACCP Work in Your Food Establishment

It may seem daunting, but increased transparency can also provide the opportunity for your restaurant or foodservice establishment to shine. How can you make sure you get an A? 

Wyman Philbrook of Philbrook Consulting specializes in HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) and food safety training working with restaurants and foodservice operators to ensure they meet the standards during a health inspection. With over 30 years of experience, he’s seen the common strengths and pitfalls impacting health inspections over the years. Food safety should be motivated by a sense of responsibility.

There’s no doubt, open communication with staff is key. “As soon as you decide to implement a HACCP plan, share this with your staff. Tell them: this is what we plan to do, and this is why it’s important,” says Wyman. “Giving employees all the information up front is much more compelling and engaging than giving directives with no context.” Employees need to understand that public health inspectors will often do random health inspections to ensure premises meet the minimum requirement for food safety. Using a HACCP plan mitigates the risk of a closure during a health inspection.

When it comes to the actual training, “Keep it relatable,” says Wyman. “Use examples they can apply to their own lives. Instead of talking about the risks to susceptible populations like the elderly, talk about grandmas and grandpas. Speak on a human level.” Food safety should be motivated by a sense of personal responsibility, if a health inspection doesn’t meet the required food safety standards it will be shut down and can jeopardize not only jobs but the company’s brand. It’s not about being told what to do, it’s about understanding why you do it.

Lead by Example: HACCP is Everyone’s Responsibility

Sam Walton said, “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”

Whether you’re in a leadership position or not, the point is that everyone contributes to successes and failures. Empowering people to see the importance of their role in the big picture of food safety is critical when it comes to a health inspection.

“Don’t walk by a problem – take the time to stop, correct the issue, and note any key learnings that may apply elsewhere,” says Wyman. “Share successes and challenges with everyone. Regular updates on deviations from Critical Control Points and corrective actions identified in a health inspection can drive home the message that food safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

A successful health inspection comes from making sure things are done right, and continue to be done right, even when no one is looking. A surprise visit from a Public Health Inspector will find the gaps fast. Communication and training require ongoing efforts to bring out the best in yourself and your employees. Foodservice operators who “make the grade” during their health inspection can feel a sense of pride that the food they are serving is safe for their customers and that their business remains profitable.  Focus on getting everyone actively engaged in both basic sanitation and hygiene and HACCP, and help ensure you ace your health inspection every time.

About the Author

Allie Gallant is a freelance writer and blogger; follow her GFSR blogs on Food Safety in a Global Village.

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