Do you know how to prepare your bakery for a Health Department inspection?
Every state is different, but you will find all retail bakeries require periodic health inspections. Some states also require home bakeries to undergo health inspections as well.
If you’re not sure what your state requires be sure to check with your local Health Department to find out. You can use this link to find your state’s Department of Health website. Laws vary by location and the level of authority of your Health Department will vary as well; however, it all comes down to the fact that if you fail your health inspection because of critical violations, your business can be shut down in most states.
Even if you don’t have enough critical violations to be shut down, your health inspection is generally printed in local newspapers with your violations listed for all to see. This means non critical violations can be just as detrimental to your business; as failing often enough can begin to wreak havoc on your reputation, causing you to lose customers.
Whether you run a home bakery or a retail bakery you must be prepared for an inspection from the Health Department. The following list includes items/instances you may not even realize the Health Department frowns upon until it’s too late.
How to Prepare for a Health Department Inspection
Do Not Use Unapproved Decorating Tools
Did you know not all decorating tools are considered food safe in a bakery environment? Tools that you should check with your local Health Department before using include:
- Paint Brushes- even if you purchase these brushes in the “cake decorating” section and only use them for painting with food coloring, most health departments do not allow these. My local health inspector explained it is because the brushes can never be cleaned/sanitized properly so they are not allowed in a bakery setting.
- Foam Paint Rollers- some bakers use brand new foam rollers as a buttercream smoothing technique (Melvira Method), however no foam is allowed in a bakery kitchen according to the health inspector. The reasoning is the same as the paint brushes, foam can never be cleaned or properly sanitized and can harbor bacteria or buildup of chemicals.
- Non-Edible Decorations- you will want to verify the items you place onto your cakes and other products are food safe. While the health department may not check this item specifically, you don’t want to have toxic items in your kitchen.
Although I do not have an alternative for paint brushes, you can use Viva paper towels in place of a foam roller, but not in addition to. Paper towels are allowed as you can use them one time and they are then disposed. No worries about cleaning between uses.
Do Not Forget Gloves/Hair Protection
If a health inspector shows up unexpectedly, you may be in trouble if you aren’t using a barrier between your products and your bare hands or not wearing hair protection.
Not all states require gloves or hair nets per say, but most will require some kind protection between your hands/hair and the finished product.
The state I operated from did not require gloves during the pre-baking prep time, but after the product was baked it was a requirement to use a barrier between bare hands and the product. Gloves were not specifically listed, you could use parchment paper or other barrier, but of course, gloves were the most convenient.
Hair nets also weren’t the specific protection stated, but you were required to have long hair pulled back and some sort of cap or hat on in any food service area. Check with your local agency on these requirements.
Do Not Use Improper Sanitation Procedures
Did you know the wrong cleaning procedures can result in a violation? If you have any of the following present or use these items improperly, you’re asking for trouble:
- Sponges- these are not allowed because foam sponges can harbor bacteria and are not capable of being cleaned/sanitized thoroughly.
- Bleach/Sanitizer- be sure you are properly diluting these cleaning products as well as reading how long they must set and if they must be rinsed off food contact surfaces. Also, when using bleach to sanitize your clean dishes, do not mix it with hot water. Hot water causes the bleach to dissipate.
- Bleach Test Strips- you will need these strips to test your bleach water. Believe it or not you will be cited if your bleach isn’t diluted properly. You can’t leave behind bleach residue or it will be toxic to your customers.
Sanitation is one of the most important procedures you must follow to protect your business and reputation. Don’t take these procedures lightly and learn the proper way to sanitize your tools, materials,work spaces, and dishes.
Do Not Forget to Label Opened Products
Labeling opened products with the date is extremely important and one of the first things the inspector will look for. This includes all perishable items. It is not necessary to label things like flour, sugar, or dry mixes, but you may decide to do so for your own records.
Labeling is one of the easiest things to do and also one of the most forgotten things in a busy kitchen. The best thing to do is make it habit from the very beginning. This can be done by simply keeping a Sharpie close by to quickly write directly on the opened container. Don’t forget to train anyone who may help in the kitchen area to do this so that all staff know the requirements.
Do Not Store Items on the Floor
Storing items directly on the floor is a huge No-No. All items, from cleaning supplies and packaging to ingredients and materials should be stored on a shelf, up off the floor. The reasoning for this is pest control and to ensure ideal sanitation.
This is probably one of the last things you’ll be thinking about when opening your storefront or when storing things at home, but it is a requirement and will be checked during inspection. Be certain you have all items stored properly and off of the floor.
This list does not include everything an inspector will be looking for, but highlighted areas you may not realize will be checked. These are just a few of the items a health inspector will be looking at during their walk through, so don’t forget to speak with your local health department about the other things you need to be doing to ensure you’re following all rules and regulations.
Even if you aren’t required to have a health inspection by your state or local government, consider following these guidelines anyway. Safe manufacturing practices are always a good idea!
Tell me in the comments what are your state laws? Were there any surprises during your inspection others should be aware of?
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