About the Inspection Process
In the state of North Carolina, foodservice establishments such as restaurants,
take-out or delivery food businesses, school cafeterias and institutions (hospital,
nursing home, etc.) are to be inspected at a frequency that is determined by the
complexity of the menu and the susceptibility of the population served. There are
four risk categories with a corresponding inspection frequency.
- Risk Category I establishments are inspected once per year, do not serve potentially
hazardous foods and are most often bars or coffee shops that use reusable cups or
- Risk Category II establishments are inspected twice per year, have limited menus
with simple food preparation procedures and are primarily cook and serve type establishments.
- Risk Category III establishments are inspected three times per year, have a more
complex menu and cook some foods in advance, then refrigerate the foods to be reheated
and served at a later time.
- Risk Category IV establishments are inspected four times per year, have the most
complex menus that involve cooking, cooling and reheating of several foods or they
serve a highly susceptible population such as children, elderly persons or those
who may be immunocompromised.
The unannounced inspections are made by environmental health specialists employed
by the local county health department.
Some of the things that are evaluated by the environmental health specialist during
an inspection are employee activities such as food preparation and handwashing,
how and where food is stored or prepared, food temperatures, cleanliness of equipment
including eating and drinking utensils, condition and cleanliness of the building
and surrounding premises. In evaluating the establishment the environmental health
specialist must determine if there are violations present and if so, how serious
is the violation.
Using a standardized inspection form, the specialist marks the violations and determines
if the full point value or half of the point value will be deducted. Factors that
influence a decision to deduct the full point value is the severity of the violation
or if it has been deducted on previous inspections. If there is a potential for
a violation or the violation is minor, the specialist may make a general comment,
to remind the operator to keep the condition under control or take preventive steps
to keep the condition from progressing to a violation.
To arrive at a numeric score and letter grade for the inspection, the total points
assigned to the violations are deducted from 100 to give a percentage score. A two
point education credit may be added to the percentage score, if there is a full
time employee who has successfully completed an approved food safety training class.
The letter grades are determined by the numeric score and are based on a 10 point
scale. Facilities with an “A” have a score between 90.0 and 102.0, “B” grades have
a score between 80.0 and 89.5 and “C” grades have a score between 70.0 and 79.5.
If the score without the 2 point education credit is less than 70.0%, the permit
is revoked and the establishment is closed.
Re-inspections are made for facilities with a letter grade less than “A”. When a
grade less than “A” is posted, the operator of the facility may request a re-inspection
after the violations noted on the inspection have been corrected. A re-inspection
must be completed within 15 days if the request for re-inspection is for the purpose
of raising the letter grade.