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Food Establishment Inspections And Reports - FAQ


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Q: What is a food establishment?

A: A food establishment is any operation that prepares, packages or serves food for customers to eat. They include restaurants, cafeterias, take-out food businesses, markets, street vendors and church kitchens that sell meals and central preparation sites for selling food from vehicles or other locations.

Food establishments do not include produce markets that sell whole, uncut vegetables and fruits or private home kitchens, if the food is not potentially hazardous. Markets for unprepared seafood are not food establishments and are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Q: How many food establishments have permits in Delaware?

A: At the beginning of 2007 there were approximately 3,500 permitted food establishments operating in Delaware.

Q: How often are food establishments inspected?

A: Most food establishments are inspected every 6 months. Some smaller and simpler operations are inspected once each year.

Q: How many inspections are done every year?

A: About 5,900 inspections are performed each year.

Q: When would a restaurant be closed immediately?

A: A restaurant must be closed when an "imminent health hazard" is found. Imminent health hazards are conditions in which contamination and spoilage of food is widespread. These conditions include flooding, sewage backup, loss of electricity and loss of running water. The site's inspection report will read "closure" under the "inspection type" category. All imminent health hazards must be corrected before the site can reopen for business.

Q: What kinds of problems are listed on inspection reports?

A: The Food Code identifies several categories of food safety problems. When an establishment does not meet a requirement of the Food Code, but a mistake does not create a situation that contributes to illness, it is a core violation. The absence of a required sign is a core violation.

When an establishment does not meet a requirement of the Food Code, and the mistake creates a situation that contributes to illness, it is a priority or priority foundation violation.

Q: What happens when priority or priority foundation violations are found?

A: Many priority or priority foundation violations can be corrected immediately during the inspections. These are recorded and marked as such on the report. Some priority or priority foundation violations may take longer to correct, especially if equipment or plumbing is involved. The inspector will return to the restaurant within 10 days to check compliance on not only the previous deficiencies, but also will note any new violations observed during the re-inspection.

Q: How many priority or priority foundation violations at once call for immediate closing?

A: There is no specific number of priority or priority foundation items on an inspection that result in immediate closure. If the food and preparation surfaces in the establishment cannot be protected from contamination, this is a dangerous situation and the restaurant must stop serving food. This may be as few as 2 or 3 priority or priority foundation violations.

Q: What happens to repeat offenders or establishments that fix one or several priority or priority foundation violations only to come up with others?

A: Occasionally, inspectors discover new violations on a re-inspection visit. These are recorded and the manager is given up to 10 days for correction, unless fixed on the spot. The establishment may also be assessed a fee for the re-inspection when the violations are not corrected within the time required.

Q: What are the rights of food establishments according to current law?

A: All inspections are conducted using established regulatory procedures. The operator may at any time ask for a hearing with the Director of the Division of Public Health, if he or she feels they have not been properly inspected or an inspector has been unreasonable in the reported findings. Only after due process can the Director revoke a permit based on inspections.

Q: How does someone complain about a food establishment - how and when is that complaint acted upon?

A: To file a complaint regarding a food establishment contact the Office of Food Protection.

When a complaint is received it is investigated, on a prioritized basis, as soon as possible. Complaints are investigated by field staff by visiting the establishment. As with all inspections, management should correct any violations found during the investigation.



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