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Department of Public Health

Restaurant Inspection Reports

Training & Education | Food Service Licensure | Foodborne Illness

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

What does Ottawa County Environmental Health Services – Food Safety and Sanitation Divison inspect?

The Ottawa County Environmental Health Services – Food Safety and Sanitation Divison inspects food service establishments. These food service establishments may be fixed, mobile, or temporary. Food service establishments include the following:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • School Cafeterias
  • Factory Cafeterias
  • Coffee Shops
  • Donut/Bagel Shops
  • Ice Cream Shops
  • Concessions
  • Catering Kitchens
  • Private Organizations Serving the Public

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What training is required before an Environmental Health Specialist can conduct inspections?

Before one can become an Environmental Health Specialist, they must possess a minimum of a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Health or other science related field (chemistry, biology, etc.).

Prior to conducting food service inspections, the Environmental Health Specialist must complete twenty-five (25) joint inspections with a standardized trainer. They then must complete twenty-five (25) inspections on their own with each inspection scrutinized by the supervisor and/or standardized trainer. Next they perform five (5) joint inspections again with the standardized trainer.

In addition, at a minimum, they must complete a three (3) day Food Code training class, a two (2) day food borne illness training class, ServSafe Manager Certification training, and training modules provided by the Michigan Department of Agriculture. Other classes and continuing education are on-going.

Most Environmental Health Specialists also become Registered Sanitarians (RS) or Registered Environmental Health Specialists (REHS) by rigorous studying and successfully passing the four (4) hour registration exam.

How often is a food service establishment inspected?

According to Michigan law, food service establishments are inspected as follows:

  • Establishments operating year round and school cafeterias are inspected once every six (6) months.
  • Establishments operating nine (9) or fewer months each year shall be inspected once per season of operation.

The inspections described above are “ROUTINE” inspections. One or more “REINSPECTIONS” may take place shortly after a routine inspection to verify correction of violations. Routine inspections are unannounced. Reinspections are normally scheduled.

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What does Ottawa County Environmental Health Services – Food Safety and Sanitation Division use as a basis to conduct inspections?

All food service establishments in Michigan must comply with the Michigan Food Law, Act 92 of 2000, as amended (MCL 289.1101 – 289.8111).

The Michigan Food Law adopted the 1999 Food Code of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as the sanitation standard for all Michigan food establishments.

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What types of violations are there?

There are two main categories of violations – critical violations and non-critical violations.

Critical violations are more likely than non-critical violations to lead to contamination of food and to result in causing a food borne illness if not corrected. Each violation listed in an inspection report clearly states whether or not the violation is critical.

Critical violations on the inspection report are listed as “Violation (Critical)”, followed by the name of the violation, while non-critical violations are listed by name of the violation only. Additionally, there is a link for each violation that describes the violation in detail. The specific requirements may be found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code.

Examples of critical violations include:

  • Absence of a knowledgeable person-in-charge during hours of operation
  • Failure to restrict ill employees from handling food
  • Failure of food employees to wash their hands when required
  • Food employees touching ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands
  • Failure to cook raw meats, poultry, fish or eggs to safe temperatures
  • Failure to cool foods properly
  • Failure to reheat foods properly
  • Failure to hold cold foods at 41ºF or below
  • Failure to hold hot foods at 140ºF or above
  • Cross contamination between raw (uncooked) and ready-to-eat foods
  • Failure to clean and sanitize equipment and utensils that come into direct contact with food
  • Presence of pests in the establishment
  • Failure to use, store, or label cleaners, poison and other toxic chemicals properly
  • Failure to protect the water supply

Examples of non-critical violations include:

  • Failure to keep the floors, walls, and ceilings of the establishment clean
  • Failure of food employees to wear hair restraints
  • Failure to maintain the facility or equipment in good repair

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How do I judge the sanitation safety level of a food service establishment?

The best way to judge the results of an inspection is to read the entire inspection report. A perfect routine inspection report would have:

  • No critical violations
  • No repeat violations
  • No violations overall

A typical routine inspection report may have:

  • A small number of critical violations that are corrected during the inspection
  • No repeat critical violations
  • A small number of repeat non-critical violations
  • Few to several violations overall

A poor routine inspection report generally has:

  • Several critical violations that are not corrected during the inspection
  • Repeat critical violations
  • Repeat non-critical violations
  • Several violations overall

Inspections are only a snapshot of what is happening in the food service establishment at that particular time. The presence of violations in an inspection report does not necessarily mean an establishment will have the same violations any other time. Furthermore, large establishments with extensive menus typically will have more violations than small establishments with simple menus. This does not identify large establishments as being less safe. When comparing inspection reports from different establishments, consider their size and menus.

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What happens if a food service establishment has violations?

A food service operator must correct all violations of the Food Code during the inspection or by the time allowed in the inspection report. Failure to do so results in progressive enforcement action.

If an imminent health hazard is found, the establishment is ordered closed. The operation may reopen only after a reinspection proves elimination of the hazard. Imminent health hazards include:

  • Lack of water or electrical power
  • Food borne illness outbreak
  • Severe pest infestation
  • Back-up of sewage in the kitchen
  • No hot water
  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Any other situation in which the public may be in immediate danger

Ottawa County Environmental Services – Food Safety and Sanitation Division pursues progressive enforcement action when violations are not imminent health hazards, but are repeat and/or reoccurring. According to the Michigan Administrative Procedures Act, a food service license holder must be given three (3) opportunities to correct violations before his or her license is limited, suspended or revoked:

  • The establishment corrects violations during the routine and reinspection. When the establishment fails to do this, the license holder is asked to attend a Compliance Conference.
  • The establishment is to correct violations immediately following the Compliance Conference. When the establishment fails to comply, the license holder is asked to attend an Informal Hearing.
  • The establishment is given another opportunity to immediately correct violations following the Informal Hearing. When the establishment fails to comply, the food service license may be limited, suspended, or revoked; or a Formal Hearing is convened to determine the next course of action. The license holder may request a Formal Hearing before the Ottawa County Department of Public Health Appeals Board to appeal a license limitation, suspension or revocation.

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How do I read an inspection report?

The following abbreviations are sometimes used by the Environmental Health Specialists when writing their inspection reports:

EHS – Environmental Health Specialist – A person whom has completed the necessary training to inspect food service establishments.

FIFO – First In, First Out – This phrase refers to proper product rotation. First food stored should be the first used.

MDA – Michigan Department of Agriculture

PHF – Potentially Hazardous Food – This abbreviation refers to foods that must be kept hot or cold to prevent bacterial growth. Examples of potentially hazardous foods are: meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, cooked pasta, cooked rice, cooked vegetables, soups, seed sprouts, cut melon.

PIC – Person In Charge – Each food service establishment is required to have a person in charge at the restaurant at all times it is in operation. The person in charge must be knowledgeable about the safe operation of their establishment.

REHS/RS – Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian – Credentials held by Environmental Health Specialists who have successfully passed the registration exam.

RTE – Ready-to-Eat – This phrase refers to foods that need no further cooking, cleaning or processing to be consumed. Examples include salads, cold sandwiches, and sushi.

SEHS – Senior Environmental Health Specialist – An Environmental Health Specialist who has received REHS or RS.

WIC – Walk In Cooler – This is the large refrigerator many restaurants use to keep bulk foods cold.

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Where can I get more information?

For more information on food service establishment reports, licensing, or food safety, please call:

Ottawa County Department of Public Health
Environmental Health Services
(616) 393-5645

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