Understanding Inspections

The Food Protection & Community Services Division inspects all licensed retail food establishments in the County for a variety of reasons (e.g. obtaining a permit, mandated inspections, or in response to complaints.) Included in this overall surveillance are two types of inspections that are conducted on a routine basis. The first type, a comprehensive inspection, is a thorough inspection that evaluates the sanitation, maintenance, food service operations, food safety plan, critical temperatures, and food handling procedures for the facility. The second type, a monitoring inspection, involves checking the food service operation for critical food temperatures, equipment temperatures, and general food handling / cleanliness practices. While monitoring inspections are not as detailed as comprehensive inspections, they help ensure that the facility is operating safely throughout the year.

The frequency of inspections is based on the food-borne illness risk assessment of the food being prepared at a facility. Based on the risk, each facility is designated as high, medium, or low priority. High priority risk facilities prepare food products a day or more in advance or utilize any combination of two or more processes such as cooking, cooling, reheating, or hot holding food. Moderate priority risk facilities prepare food products which are served on the same day. A low priority risk facility serves prepackaged, potentially hazardous foods. These facilities generally offer limited sales of ice cream, milk, and eggs.

High priority facilities are required to receive one comprehensive and two monitoring inspections per year. Moderate priority facilities are required to receive at least one comprehensive and one monitoring inspection every year. Low priority facilities typically receive one comprehensive inspection every two years.

The Food Protection & Community Services Division employs Licensed Environmental Health Specialists. Each has been trained in food safety and has received a standardization certification from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. This ensures consistency among inspectors.