Navigating Environmental Health
Each hospitality establishment is governed by their county’s respective County Health Department (CHD) in order to maintain food quality and food safety standards in the state of Florida. As such, food and drink establishments are subject to inspections by the County Health Department routinely and for a number of reasons. Examples may include:
- scheduled routine inspections performed by a licensed health inspector in order to maintain the health and safety of the public
- re-inspections in which an establishment is found to be in violation and must correct the issue within a certain time frame. An inspector will arrive to complete this inspection after the time frame for correction has been met.
- complaint inspections which are inspections carried out in response to a citizen’s complaint. These inspections are completely unannounced allowing the establishment no-prior notice before the inspector’s arrival.
Once complete, an establishment can receive one of three scores: satisfactory, unsatisfactory, or incomplete. These scores are the culmination of violations and potential violations witnessed by the inspector. The inspector will then determine whether or not these observations are significant enough a threat to call for a re-inspection.
Opening Your Establishment
Food-service establishments can be governed by typically one of two agencies: County of Environmental Health, and the Division of Hotels and Restaurants. They are distinguished in that County Environmental Health governs prepackaged foods and bars/nightclubs with no food, and the Division of Hotels and Restaurants governs prepared food in bars/restaurants/ nightclubs, etc.
To mitigate the spread of foodborne illness, the Department of Health (DOH) will work with all other food-service and hospitality industry establishments such as cafeterias, civic and fraternal organizations, and bars and lounges that do not prepare food. These inspections will be risk-based meaning that establishments and operations that pose a larger threat to the public getting sick will be inspected more frequently, while those that pose less of a risk will be inspected less.
Get Started Creating Your Plan Review with Liquor License Professionals
Once you’ve determined the agency that will be governing your establishment, you will need to apply for a plan review and sanitation certificate. Both agencies have a plan review for “new” or “remodeled” establishments which is required prior to opening to the public and required by local building authorities to obtain a final Certificate of Occupancy (CO). Your plan review must include all equipment, furniture, and finishes containing each piece of equipment used for food operation and all areas for the public use, with a drawn to scale floor plan detailing where food will be prepared and disposed of. It is critical that this floor plan is highly detailed and labeled, indicating hand washing stations, plumbing services, lighting and electrical services, restrooms and food / dry storage areas, etc. Upon careful review, you will be notified in writing if any modifications or corrections that need to be made. Once the plans are approved, your initial inspection will be scheduled and take place, and you will be issued your Health Certificate or Permanent Food Service License.
Commonly Cited Health Issues
Once established, It is important to understand the difference between these governing agencies and the food health and safety standards that your establishment must maintain compliance with. Food that is prepared in unsafe conditions will quickly cause the spread of foodborne illness-causing bacteria and toxins. The following health and safety best practices will help to keep your establishment sanitary and safe from the spread of illness.
- The use of gloves and proper handwashing techniques to include fingernails
- Maintaining safe temperatures for food preparation and storage. Inadequate refrigeration temperatures and/or holding temperatures will cause bacteria to multiply more quickly.
- Preventing cross-contamination from uncooked meat onto other food products
- Proper cleaning and sanitizing techniques for eating and cooking utensils as well as working and dining areas.
- Controlling contamination from outside pests such as roaches, flies, etc.
For expert consultation and assistance with the required plan review, partner with our team of specialists at Liquor License Professionals. We will help to ensure that this process is completed quickly, correctly and to get your establishment up and running as soon and as smoothly as possible.