The Centers for Disease Control estimates that approximately 76 million Americans suffer from a food borne illness every year. It is also estimated that about 5 thousand deaths occur annually as a direct result of these illnesses. This alone, as well as the billions of dollars these illnesses cost the consumers and the industry each year, makes continuous improvement in the areas of food safety and sanitation a goal shared jointly by both the food industries and those with responsibility for regulatory enforcement.

Inspections measure a food establishment’s compliance with the Texas Food Establishment Rules (TFER), that are in effect throughout the state of Texas. TFER is written to minimize the possibility of a food borne illness in an establishment offering food to the public.

The frequency with which food establishment inspections are conducted is based on a risk analysis for each establishment. On an average most establishments receive routine, unannounced inspections at least two times per year.

A thorough inspection gives a report of how the establishment is doing on a particular day; however, it would not be appropriate to make generalizations about an establishment based on one inspection or on a particular day. Additionally, complaints are investigated and evaluated on an individual basis.

Inspections focus on three areas:

  • Food temperature and HACCP plan requirements are important because time and temperature are the two factors that influence bacterial growth in foods. Inspectors monitor cooking, cooling, holding, and reheating procedures used on foods. Violations of this nature require immediate corrective action.
  • Personnel, handling, and source requirements are items that indirectly affect bacterial contamination of foods. Inspectors monitor good hygienic practices used by food employees, including hand washing, employee eating and the use of hair restraints. Food contact surfaces of equipment and utensils shall be cleaned and sanitized. Inspectors verify that food is in sound condition, properly stored and handled, obtained from an approved manufacturer and is free of pests or other contaminates.
  • Facility and equipment requirements. Simply put, inspectors make sure the establishments have good working equipment and a safe structure to produce and serve food to the public. The focus is on the physical facility: floors, walls, ceilings, and properly functioning equipment. Inspectors verify that hot and cold water, under pressure, are available at dish washing sinks, dish machines and hand sinks; soap and paper towels for hand washing are provided, accurately calibrated thermometers are provided to check food and refrigeration temperatures, and surfaces of equipment and utensils are clean, sanitized and in good repair.

If a food establishment has critical violations that cannot be resolved while the health officer is conducting an inspection, Follow Up or Re-Inspection(s) must be conducted.

When you visit your favorite food establishment that is inspected by the Fort Bend Environmental Health Department, a copy of the most recent report must be posted.