Restaurant Inspections Help Keep Tennesseans Healthy
NASHVILLE – There are approximately 26,000 establishments in Tennessee where food and beverages are served. Inspectors from the Tennessee Department of Health visit each location at least twice a year to make sure items are safe for consumption.
“Protecting the health of all Tennesseans is a core part of our mission,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Our regulatory role and partnership with food and beverage providers helps to prevent food-borne illnesses and is one of the invisible services we provide to people across Tennessee every day.”
“We do scheduled and unannounced inspections to ensure rigorous safety and sanitary standards are always followed,” said Hugh Atkins, director of the TDH Division of General Environmental Health. “It’s an important responsibility because improperly stored, prepared or served food and beverages can create serious health problems. Fortunately, most food service providers view us as partners in helping to ensure safe menu offerings.”
TDH staff performed more than 76,000 inspections in 2013. This total includes follow-up inspections within 15 days at facilities that did not achieve a minimum score of 70 on the initial visit. Food service providers that don’t achieve the minimum score receive coaching in what needs to be improved.
Among the items inspectors check during each visit are food protection and temperature, employee hygiene, water and sewage services, toilet and hand washing facilities, waste disposal, pest control, cleaning and sanitizing of food equipment and utensils, lighting and ventilation and proper storage and use of toxic materials such as cleaning supplies.
“We inspect every facility as if our family was going to eat there,” Atkins said. “That’s because we do. Our inspectors are located across the state and we take pride in helping food and beverage providers serve only the best to every consumer. In 2013, Tennessee strengthened its food safety program based on the national Food and Drug Administration food code. This will allow us to take a closer look at risk factors that could lead to outbreaks of food-borne illness.”
TDH also works closely with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to ensure safe food at many other locations and venues. TDA inspects retail food stores, food manufacturing facilities, food warehouses, dairy farms and dairy processing facilities. In 2013, 9,509 retail food stores, 1,266 manufacturing facilities, 511 warehouses, 380 dairy farms and 30 dairy processing facilities went through TDA inspection.
“We appreciate the great working relationship we have with the Tennessee Department of Health,” said TDA Consumer and Industry Services Assistant Commissioner Jimmy Hopper. “It is the goal of both agencies to make sure the citizens of Tennessee can eat at establishments and know their food is safe.”
Current food permits and the most recent inspection report are required to be displayed in public view at every facility. Inspection reports are on bright yellow paper and include, in big bold numbers, the most recent inspection score. Consumers may also view TDH restaurant inspection information for every establishment in Tennessee by going to http://health.state.tn.us/geh/restaurantinspections.htm.
Tennessee Department of Agriculture food store inspection scores are available online at http://tn.gov/agriculture/regulatory/foodstores.shtml.
Anyone with concerns about food preparation or service that might endanger public health should contact their local health department. There is also a toll-free foodborne illness complaint hotline, 1-800-293-8228, for consumers to call if they believe an illness is associated with food or beverage they’ve consumed in a public facility.
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH is one of 22 cabinet-level departments in the executive branch of Tennessee state government. Together with its six vital metro partners, TDH provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for all people in Tennessee including health professional licensure, health facility regulation and inspections of food service establishments. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and employs more than 3,500 people. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit http://health.state.tn.us/.